FCC: No, Marriott, You Can’t Block WiFi

It’s almost hard to believe that such a ruling would ever be necessary, but the Federal Communications Commission rejected a request by Marriott that they and other hotels be allowed to block cell phone wifi signals so their customers are forced to buy the hotel’s wifi.

Personal Wi-Fi networks, or “hot spots,” are an important way that consumers connect to the Internet. Willful or malicious interference with Wi-Fi hot spots is illegal. Wi-Fi blocking violates Section 333 of the Communications Act, as amended.1 The Enforcement Bureau has seen a disturbing trend inwhich hotels and other commercial establishments block wireless consumers from using their own personal Wi-Fi hot spots on the commercial establishment’s premises. As a result, the Bureau is protecting consumers by aggressively investigating and acting against such unlawful intentional interference.

In 2014, the Enforcement Bureau conducted an investigation, culminating with a Consent Decree, into this kind of unlawful activity by the operator of a resort hotel and convention center. In that case, Marriott International, Inc. deployed a Wi-Fi deauthentication protocol to deliberately block consumers who sought to connect to the Internet using their own personal Wi-Fi hot spots. Marriott admitted that the customers it blocked did not pose a security threat to the Marriott network and agreed to settle the investigation by paying a civil penalty of $600,000.

No hotel, convention center, or other commercial establishment or the network operator providing services at such establishments may intentionally block or disrupt personal Wi-Fi hot spots on such premises, including as part of an effort to force consumers to purchase access to the property owner’s Wi-Fi network. Such action is illegal and violations could lead to the assessment of substantial monetary penalties.

Glad they rejected this proposal and with such strong language.

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  • tbp1

    Ah, but I’m sure the “magic of the marketplace” would have found a solution that benefited everyone without the heavy hand of government making a mess out of everything.

  • http://johnm55.wordpress.com johnm55

    I have often wondered how McDonalds, Starbucks and Cafe Nero, as well as my local greasy spoon, can offer free WiFi when you buy a coffee or a burger for £3.99 but a hotel that is charging £100 per night (without breakfast) needs to charge at least £6 per hour.

  • tbp1

    #2: Partly, no doubt, because so many of the people staying there are business people on expense accounts who just don’t care what the room costs because they aren’t paying it. It’s the same reason they can get away with charging $10 for a glass of room service orange juice.

  • Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    The next step, of course, is to literally smack Marriott’s representaweasels, over the head, hard, and point out that if Motel Fucking 6 offers complimentary fucking wifi, they have no fucking excuse for not fucking doing so themselves.

  • http://www.thelosersleague.com theschwa

    Well, can we at least pump carbon monoxide into our hotels so that guests have to pay for our oxygens tanks??

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

    The next step, of course, is to literally smack Marriott’s representaweasels, over the head, hard…

    The Mor[m]ons would call that PERSECUTION!!!

    Seriously, if Marriott had tried the “strongly-held religious belief” defense, I wonder if they might have got away with it.

  • abb3w

    That fine seems low by at least one order of magnitude.