Marriott seeks FCC clarity on Wi-Fi ruling
06 OCTOBER 2014 8:01 AM
Marriott International agreed to a $600,000 fine for blocking personal hot spots in meeting rooms, but the company wants the FCC to clear up confusion on the policy.
WASHINGTON—Marriott International asked the United States Federal Communications Commission on Friday to eliminate confusion over its rules regarding Wi-Fi services. The company’s statement follows its agreement to pay a $600,000 fine for disabling personal Wi-Fi hot spots of meeting attendees at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee.
In a statement, Marriott said it believes its actions were lawful and were an attempt to protect guests from “rogue wireless hot spots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyberattacks and identify theft.”
The fine and ruling stems from a March 2013 incident at the hotel in which a guest complained to the FCC that Marriott, the operator of the property, was jamming his personal Wi-Fi hot spot. An FCC investigation found Gaylord employees used features of the hotel’s Wi-Fi monitoring system to de-authenticate guest hot spot access points. At the same time, according to an FCC news release, Marriott was charging conference exhibitors and attendees between $250 to $1,000 per device to tap into the hotel’s Wi-Fi system.
In a consent decree, Marriott agreed to pay the fine and take “significant steps to improve how it monitors and uses its Wi-Fi technology at the Gaylord Nashville.” The company also must institute a compliance plan and file compliance and usage reports with the FCC Enforcement Bureau every three months for three years. The plan must document any use of Wi-Fi access point containment features at all hotels Marriott manages or owns in the U.S.
“Consumers who purchase cellular data plans should be able to use them without fear that their personal Internet connection will be blocked by their hotel or conference center,” said Travis LeBlanc, chief of the FCC Enforcement Bureau. “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. This practice puts consumers in the untenable position of either paying twice for the same service or forgoing Internet access altogether.”
The FCC maintains a jammer tip line in which the public can report potential violations of rules prohibiting the use or sale of equipment that interferes with cellular and personal and other communications devices. In 2013 and so far this year, the commission has taken enforcement action against five companies and individuals.