Hotels Want Permission to Jam Your Wi-Fi

A few months ago, Marriott was fined $600,000 by the FCC for illegally jamming the signals for people’s cell phones and personal wi-fi devices so they could force them to pay the exorbitant cost of their hotel’s “high speed” internet. Now they want the FCC to give them permission to do so:

Marriott International and the American Hotel and Lodging Association are asking the F.C.C. to give hotels the green light to remotely disable the Wi-Fi devices that some travelers use to connect their laptops and tablet computers to the Internet through cellular services from companies like Verizon. This would force guests to buy the wireless Internet service provided by hotels.

In its petition, the hotel industry asks the commission to create an exception to rules that prohibit anyone from “willful or malicious interference” with wireless communications that are “licensed or authorized” by the government. The industry asserts that because Wi-Fi signals use unlicensed frequencies, they do not deserve the same protection as licensed services like cellphone networks. That is an absurd argument, since the government has authorized unlicensed Wi-Fi devices and networks. Other countries, like Britain, prohibit “deliberate interference” of wireless communications…

Hotel industry officials say they want to protect guests from rogue Wi-Fi networks that are designed by criminals to look as though they are part of hotel-operated Wi-Fi systems and that are used to hack into travelers’ computers. They say this issue is a particular worry at conferences where dozens of exhibitors and thousands of visitors are using Wi-Fi.

Oh yes, of course. They’re being totally altruistic here, you guys. They’re just trying to protect you because you’re obviously a complete moron who has no idea which cellular hotspot you set up for your own use is actually yours.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • StevoR

    They do NOT have it.

  • erichoug

    Considering the way our government has been bought and paid for, they’ll probably get their permission.

  • erichoug

    Oh, I’m sorry. I meant just bought. They haven’t actually been paid for.

  • Sastra

    Hotel industry officials say they want to protect guests from rogue Wi-Fi networks that are designed by criminals to look as though they are part of hotel-operated Wi-Fi systems and that are used to hack into travelers’ computers. They say this issue is a particular worry at conferences where dozens of exhibitors and thousands of visitors are using Wi-Fi.

    And there’s no way whatsoever to help inform travelers as to the real name of the hotel’s official Wi-Fi system, or to caution them about criminal imitators. Signs won’t help. It might take someone at a microphone, addressing a bunch of people gathered together for … what? No idea.

    You gotta jam.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Turnabout is fair play. I demand the right to jam the wifi of the local Marriott hotel.

  • Loqi

    @Reginald

    It’s improving security, so they really shouldn’t have a problem with it.

  • Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Either that or just make charging extra for internet access illegal for hotels.

    Seriously, Motel 6 doesn’t usually do it. Fucking Marriott has no excuse.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    In its petition, the hotel industry asks the commission to create an exception to rules that prohibit anyone from “willful or malicious interference” with wireless communications…

    In other words, they want special permission to do things that they know are willful and malicious, as well as illegal for everyone else.

    Hotel industry officials say they want to protect guests from rogue Wi-Fi networks that are designed by criminals to look as though they are part of hotel-operated Wi-Fi systems and that are used to hack into travelers’ computers.

    They want to “protect” their customers by interfering with communication devices that the customers paid for and lawfully own? What’s next — protect their guests from traffic accidents by slashing their tires? Only the most clueless and corrupt FCC flunky would take that idea seriously. It really says something about our political climate that any lobbyist would even publicly suggest any such thing.

    They already give clients REAL protection by telling them how to get on their own WiFi networks, and making them accessible by password. They could probably all agree to kick into a fund to publish information about security threats they’re aware of.

  • Alverant

    Hotel industry officials say they want to protect guests from rogue Wi-Fi networks that are designed by criminals to look as though they are part of hotel-operated Wi-Fi systems

    Then offer your wi-fi for free. That will encourage your customers to use it.

  • justsomeguy

    After this, they’ll be forbidding people to bring in outside food or beverages and instead require all guests to get their meals and drinks from the minibar or on-site restaurant. It’s for protection, you see. Someone might erroneously think that the Hardee’s two blocks away might be affiliated with the hotel.

  • eric

    @2 – I’m guessing no, they won’t get it. Not only would this be a break from decades of consistent policy, but the government is well aware that EM jamming transmissions do not stop at hotel doors and windows. It’ll affect nearby businesses and road travelers. I don’t see any way this request goes anywhere.

  • devlynh

    Why not block cell phone signals also. The rooms have phones that could be used.

  • Fergus Gallagher

    The answer is simple – allow them to block as long as they offer free access to guests.

  • vereverum

    Hotel industry officials say they want to protect guests from rogue Wi-Fi networks that are designed by criminals to look as though they are part of hotel-operated Wi-Fi systems…

    As a judge my first question would be

    Why would a guest sign on to a criminal designed network that looks like a network they don’t want to use?

    My second question would be

    Why would a criminal design a system that looks like one that no one wants to use?

    then, in the ensuing silence, I would dismiss this entire argument.

  • whheydt

    Let’s clear the air a bit… This is an example of the intersection of technology, journalism, and law.

    Marriott did not “jam” any signals. The hotels are not asking to “disable” signals.

    Marriott got on the the same channel as various private hotspots and sent “deauth” packets, which told connected devices to drop their connections. that’s still interfering with communications and it got them in trouble. The big fine was because, after sending the deauth packets, they turned around and offered–expensive–WiFi service to the same people they’d interfered with. This is not your typical $10 or $20 per day “in room” WiFi. This is in function spaces (ballrooms and the like), where the hotel might charge anywhere from $250 to $1500 per day to provide WiFi service.

    One thing is pretty clear–to me, at least–if the hotels either illegally persist in trying to shut down hotspots this way, or the FCC gives them permission to do so, the next thing you’ll see is software that can be configured to ignore deauth packts or any other packet type that could force a connection drop by a 3rd party. Since one can already buy wireless routers that have open source software, it would probably be a matter of weeks (if it isn’t already out there) before a router with an “ignore deauth” feature comes along.

  • D. C. Sessions

    I’m thinking of one particular (HUGE!) convention hotel in San Francisco, which is right across the street from a Starbucks that does an astonishing business with convention guests. Not just for the wretched coffee, but for the free WiFi that they provide. The guests pick up e-mail there rather than pay the WiFi fees that the hotel charges (higher than room rates at many places.)

    There is no way that the hotel can deauth guest connections and not interfere with the Starbucks. Which, I’m sure, Starbucks will point out to any regulators. Better yet, good luck to the hotel when tens of thousands of geeks gather there. Someone can provide the gander what’s being served to the geese.

  • U Frood

    Funny how the cheap Motel by the roadside offers WIFI for Free, but more luxurious hotels expect to be paid extra for it.

  • lorn

    Getting around that jamming is going to be just slightly more complicated than stuffing your antenna into a Pringles can and pointing it at the antenna serving the network you want to get through to.

  • whheydt

    Re: U Frood @ #17…

    Actually it’s pretty simple. The high-end hotels cater to businessmen on expense accounts. Their customers aren’t *personally* paying for broadband charges, they’re passing them along on the expense reports. Cheap motels…not so much.

    And on the general topic…Microsoft and Google are opposing the hotels moves with the FCC. This does *not* mean that MS and/or Google are on the side of the individuals, just they’re opposed to what the hotels are trying to do. (The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.)

  • caseloweraz

    Hotel industry officials say they want to protect guests from rogue Wi-Fi networks that are designed by criminals to look as though they are part of hotel-operated Wi-Fi systems and that are used to hack into travelers’ computers. They say this issue is a particular worry at conferences where dozens of exhibitors and thousands of visitors are using Wi-Fi.

    Let me see… If I were running a hotel, and I wanted to protect my guests during a conference from “rogue Wi-Fi networks,” what could I do?

    * Notify guests, by printed circulars, on the hotel’s Web page, and verbally when they check in at the desk, of the hotel network’s SSID and security key, and any other information that’s needed for the purpose.

    * Reconfigure the hotel’s access point just before the conference with a new SSID and security key, and inform the guests of this at check-in.

    * Provide wired Gigabit Ethernet access in the guest rooms.

    * If any suspected “rogue Wi-Fi networks” appear during the conference (or at other times), track their operators down and inform the authorities.

    I don’t say, without more study, that all of these measures would make economic sense. But they do make more customer-satisfaction sense than the industry proposal.