U.S. FCC warns against blocking personal Wi-Fi access

“The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday warned hotels and other entities against blocking personal Wi-Fi access, or hot spots, saying it was illegal and could incur heavy fines,” Eric Walsh reports for Reuters.

“‘The Enforcement Bureau has seen a disturbing trend in which hotels and other commercial establishments block wireless consumers from using their own personal Wi-Fi hot spots on the commercial establishment’s premises,’ the agency said in a statement on its website,” Walsh reports. “It said an investigation at a resort hotel and convention center in 2014 had found Marriott International Inc had blocked consumer access to hot spots, and it warned that such activities could lead to heavy fines.”

Read more in the full article here.

<Gautham Nagesh reports for The Wall Street Journal, "Marriott International Inc. agreed to pay a $600,000 civil penalty for blocking people from using personal Wi-Fi networks at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center, one of the largest hotel and convention centers in the eastern U.S."

"'It is unacceptable for any hotel to intentionally disable personal hot spots while also charging consumers and small businesses high fees to use the hotel’s own Wi-Fi network,' FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc said," Nagesh reports. "Marriott said the blocking was an attempt to protect guests from 'rogue wireless hotspots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber-attacks and identity theft.'"

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The fact is the blocking was an attempt to “protect” guests from wildly underpaying for Wi-Fi versus Marriott’s overpriced forced ripoff.

Marriott should also be forced to pay a pro-rated portion of every single person’s cellular bill who had hotspot capability but was blocked from using it.

87 Comments

      1. check-out, inform the manager, “Because of your corporate policy of blocking personal wifi hotspots, this will be the last time I will patronize Marriott. Further, I am emailing your offices of this incident, I need your name.”…then lay on the most feared statement of any business: “And I am telling everyone I know of this practice. Have a nice fscking day, asshole.”

        1. That is beyond naive. Nobody should have to upend their business trip, due to not getting a product they already paid for.

          The point of getting what you paid for is so you don’t have to suddenly waste time, pay more for other accommodations at the last minute, cancel meetings, and conferences etc. The free market does not work if deception is allowed, competition would in fact result in greater and ever more subtle deceptive practices.

            1. hey, botvinnik…

              Marriott International Inc. agreed to pay a $600,000 civil penalty for blocking people from using personal Wi-Fi networks at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center, one of the largest hotel and convention centers in the eastern U.S.

              That is a fine for *one* location use as an example. The government *did* do something.

            2. Uh, buttvinik, it was a fine levied by the FCC based on news articles.

              I believe that the FCC is one of those government organizations about which you are always griping.

              Just once give it up and admit that you are full of crap.

            3. What the heck does that have to do with your original assertion that the government did nothing?

              The FCC is government. The FCC levied the fine. Game over. You are wrong. What the heck is wrong with you? Bozo.

            4. bot, you said, “the government has done nothing.”

              It’s been demonstrated that you are mistaken; they have done SOMETHING, even though it’s not the fully-correct thing to do. I agree that they should have been made to issue refunds or compensation to the damaged people, but that may be beyond the FCC’s authority; they did what they could.

              Time to back down with good grace on this one.

          1. You need to understand that botvinik, like any good libertarian apparatchik, only further illustrates how much he’s unemployed, unemployable, and enjoying life in his mom’s basement.

            His comments are typical of idealist, clueless fools who’ve never ventured outside their houses…

          2. Sorry, the free market works perfectly well if deception is undertaken by businesses. However, the backlash from consumers who realize they have been duped can severely outweigh any benefits gained by the original deception.

            I have tried not to stay at hotels which charge for WiFi access for quite some time. If inexpensive hotels can offer free in-room WiFi, why should I have to pay for it at a Marriott? So I don’t.

            1. Yet, Marriott hotels remain packed, especially during conventions – so your strategy is not working.

              The FCC (ie the government) stepping in, once sufficient consumer complaints arise, is more likely to get Marriott to comply, than hoping for some magical ‘market forces’.

            2. Saying market forces solve deception ignores everyone who has been damaged by the deception. Deception and fraud need to be illegal and therefore prosecuted.

              It also ignores that while deception is often recognized by a minority it is often not recognized by a majority. So there would be a huge market incentive to continue being deceptive. (The whole point of “deceptive” is that most people don’t recognize it.)

              There is no such thing as a free market without government backing of ethical behavior.

            3. Your scenario only applies to instances in which the deception is either obvious or is discovered through an investigation and advertised. I am willing to bet that there are all kinds of business deception going on every day in the U.S. and you only hear about a small fraction.

              If the deception does not pay, then why is there so darn much of it?

    1. Works for personal stays. But the primary place this is occurring is in the conference rooms, where the in-room wi-fi in not part of the conference package. Individuals usually do not have a choice of where conferences are hosted. So, it is not as simple as not patronizing the hotels.

        1. Conferences are not typically hosted by one’s own company. And they are not always business events either. So it’s not as simple as a company trying to minimize their travel costs. I 100% agree with you that you should let organizers know of this issue, but if it fraudulent then perhaps it should be an FCC issue – they allocate this spectrum. I suspect that when a conference organizer chooses a venue, given the vast number of things they are trying to arrange, this policy is lower on the list.

            1. That’s right, respond to thoughtful points with name calling because you don’t have an equal capacity to respond intelligently yourself. How about responding again with some thought and without displaying so much insecurity.

            2. it’s not a “view” it’s reality…if you go to a restaurant and they burn your steak, do you cease to patronize that restaurant or do you demand the government step in rectify the situation? Of course not… quit runnin’ to mama, YOU are the person with the power, YOU are the customer.

            3. What happens if the restaurant is substituting cheaper products in a way that is deceptive, but not obvious? What if the restaurant is sneaking extra charges onto your bill that are difficult to spot?

              You always try to paint these situations in overly simplistic, binary terms. You seem to lack most of the intellect that you claim to have. Either that, or you just don’t use it.

            4. Now that is truly juvenile. I always figured that you were either a youngster pretending to be an adult, or an older person in a state of serious mental decline. Perhaps you are truly just the deluded asshole that you seem to be…

            5. Consider how scared botvinik is to respond to comments critical of him, or who call him out for what he is, a troll – best confirmation for him beimg some scared kid infected by the libertarian bug.

              He’ll outgrow it, once he needs to get a job.

            6. I have been a registered MDN reader for at least ten years under the same screen name, and, until today, I have yet to see the screen name “izinkdifferent” until this very exchange. Incidentally, you’ve misspelled my name.

            7. “Now that is truly juvenile. I always figured that you were either a youngster pretending to be an adult, or an older person in a state of serious mental decline.”

              add hypocrisy to your malcontent resumé.

          1. No, the hotel should just charge an additional WiFi fee for the conference and then make free WiFi (with separate login) available for the conference attendees. Then instead of buying WiFi blocking equipment, they could install WiFi boosters and earn praise from guests for their solid, fast WiFi.

    2. Your view is reasonable, but so is the view that one of governments proper activities is to prosecute fraudulant, deceptive or coercive practices, especially for necessary utilities, which the Internet has become.

      In addition to degrading a vital utility, I expect the hotel was not warning customers of the degradation when they made their reservations.

      Citizens shouldn’t have to go through multi-year court battles to get an undegraded version of a necessary product they have already paid for.

      And if the hotel disagrees they have every right to dispute the governments view.

      Again, your view is reasonable, but personally, I think this is what government should be doing – keeping the market honest, especially with respect to basic utilities. (Simply going to another hotel may not be a good option for many reasons, including location, facilities, need to be at the same venue as other guests, not being able to find another open hotel room after finding out about the limitations, etc.)

    3. Based on your logic, we don’t need any laws at all addressing theft. Because that’s what it is. Marriott is stealing the bandwidth of my Paid For wireless system. Or at least vandalizing it.

      1. Not in this instance, no, we require no law. Everyone seems to understand that Apple’s success is due to people choosing them over the competition because of their innovation and customer service…but for some collectivist bullshit indoctrinated reason, they do not grasp that they have that very same power to destroy a company that does not. They gotta run to “mama.*”

        *da gubbamint.

            1. Yes, government requires taxes to exist.

              When it is doing its proper job, government uses taxes to protect and expand the freedoms of its people. Without government their is just the mob which rapidly becomes feudalism as power consolidates. Neither of those protect the freedom of individuals or markets.

              But we are in complete agreement that the government often extends its power for its own benefit at its people’s expense and often operates incompetently, and therefore needs to be more limited than it is.

              But abdicating its duty to enforce laws promoting ethical markets would reduce freedom, not enhance it.

            2. You seem to think restating yourself without responding to counterpoints means something. All it means is that after your first comment you gave up thinking.

        1. You are truly an idealist, without a connection to the real and actual world.

          In this example, exactly how many people who stay at Marriott and try to use wifi sharing on their phone realise that Marriott is actually the one blocking the access? Nine out of ten aren’t technologically proficient enough to understand this, so after trying long enough, they give up and pay Marriott the ransom. Marriott doesn’t say they are doing this, it isn’t specified anywhere, and most guests aren’t aware of it. Clearly, it is deceptive. And because people don’t know it is happening, Marriott is getting away with it.

          Let us not even begin to discuss the utterly unrealistic notion of market forces coercing Marriott into giving up on the idea of blocking personal WiFi hotspots. The only force that will do it is either a government action or a class action law suit.

    4. Yep, botty, I plan to carry my WiFi hotspot blocking meter on my next business trip or vacation… Wait, I don’t have one of those…

      Well, I will just check hotel websites to see if their amenities include personal WiFi hotspot blocking. Strange, none of them list that feature…

      I guess we just need to call Saul.

    5. If corporations (and individuals) generally did the right thing, there would be a lot less need for government, botvinnik. Unfortunately, the same capitalist system that rewards hard work and entrepreneurs also rewards con artists, deceptive marketing, and lots of other shady business practices.

    6. Your comment “does allow” is ignorant. Wi-Fi operates on an unlicensed basis – as a commons, where anyone is allowed to be, as long as they behave in a non-interfering manner. No one gets to “allow” you to use Wi-Fi – it is a public space. No company gets to disrupt your use of that common public space. The FCC is tasked with enforcing rules against essentially anti-social behavior in that public space – they did so.
      Your get to have your own theories – not your own facts.

  1. Or pay every guest during the infraction period a daily rate internet fee equal to their own high fee – whether or not they used the hotel Internet service.

    I’m a blue-blooded capitalist, however these companies never get penalized enough to learn a lesson.

      1. That doesn’t apply to my statement. Guest’s private wifi was disabled without their knowledge – there was no notification. I’ll give the FCC some latitude to prosecute.

        If you went to Disneyland and at the gate was a sign saying: no smoking – you could choose to not buy a ticket to enter. (Almost caveat emptor)

        If you see no sign, pay your ticket fee, then enter and at the end of the ramp inside the park is a checkpoint where they search you and take your cigarettes, then tell you you can only smoke ‘Goofy’ cigarettes, which cost 5 times your brand cost – you’d be pissed and trapped too. (That is the issue here)

  2. The hotels are sending out de-authenticate packets. It is a DNS style of jamming. I am halfway attempted to install one of the python scripts to provide the same behavior back to their routers should they do this when I am at a conference.

  3. If Mariott continues their policy, force them to also have a clause to cover any and all damages incurred by the acts they describe they are defending the client from while using the hotel’s Internet access. Also restrict ‘blocking’ in such cases to hotel rooms and make clear their ‘blocking’ policy to any persons making reservations.

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