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.