Marriott International, although still claiming innocence, has agreed to pay $600,000 to settle the FCC complaint (PDF). During an event held at the hotel, employees jammed the Wi-Fi signals of cell phone companies and other hot spot devices so that the only way to access the Internet was to purchase a Wi-Fi signal from the hotel. This forced the customers at the event to either purchase the Wi-Fi from Marriott or have no Internet access at all.
The FCC maintains that federal law prohibits all jamming of cellphone, Wi-Fi and GPS signals. Travis LeBlanc expressed this sentiment in a statement from the FCC, “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. It is unacceptable for any hotel to intentionally disable personal hotspots 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.”
Marriott, on the other hand, claims the jamming of the competing Wi-Fi hotspots was done in the name of protecting their customers. They said they were simply making sure the guests wouldn’t log onto unsecured Wi-Fi networks where there was the potential of hackers to cause the customers harm. The company released a statement which said, “Marriott has a strong interest in ensuring that when our guests use our Wi-Fi service, they will be protected from rogue wireless hotspots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber-attacks and identity theft. Like many other institutions and companies in a wide variety of industries, including hospitals and universities, the Gaylord Opryland protected its Wi-Fi network by using FCC-authorized equipment provided by well-known, reputable manufacturers.”
While Marriott has agreed to pay the fine, it says that the FCC needs to create clearer rules which “eliminate the ongoing confusion” that are part of the settlement. Under the terms of the agreed settlement, Marriot is not allowed to use technology that blocks Wi-Fi signals, and it’s required to change they way it currently monitors and uses Wi-Fi signals at its location. In addition, a compliance plan must be created and filed with the FCC, with compliance reports being made every three months for the next three years.
(Photo courtesy of KimManleyOrt)