FCC calls foul on hotels blocking Wi-Fi

28 Jan 2015

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The Federal Communications Commission in the US has advised hotels to stop blocking Wi-Fi hotspots, “an essential on-ramp to the internet.”

“Persons or businesses causing intentional interference to Wi-Fi hot spots are subject to enforcement action,” read the notice, a clear reference to the its recently resolved dispute with the Marriott Hotels chain.

Back in October the FCC fined Marriott US$600,000 for blocking its customers’ Wi-Fi hotspots in one of its hotels. Earlier this month the hotel chain announced that it was giving up on its battle to contest the charges, and that it no longer blocks personal hotspots.

"Marriott International listens to its customers, and we will not block guests from using their personal Wi-Fi devices at any of our managed hotels,” it said.

Marriott had brought a petition to the FCC, filed jointly with the American Hospitality & Lodging Association, to allow Wi-Fi blocking. It wanted to do so on security grounds, but the FCC’s statement shows a slightly hollow footing for such a stance.

“Marriott admitted that the customers it blocked did not pose a security threat to the Marriott network,” reads the statement.

Following the settlement between the FCC and the Marriott, several more complaints have arisen regarding other operators operating a similar blocking policy.

The ‘Enforcement Bureau’ is investigating these complaints but, they’re obviously serious enough for it to have to remind hoteliers what they can and can’t do.

Hotel internet use image, via Shutterstock

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Gordon Hunt is a journalist at Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com