Marriott: The ethics of Wi-Fi blocking

(Image Credit: Hercwad)

Hotel-chain Marriott has caused a stir resulting in a $600,000 fine due to blocking customers Wi-Fi hotspots and using their advantageous position to charge a whopping $250 - $1000 per device to use the hotel's own service.

"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 Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc.

Gaylord Opryland protected its Wi-Fi network by using FCC-authorized equipment provided by well-known, reputable manufacturers.

The FCC launched its investigation after a complaint from an individual who accused staff at the Gaylord Opryland branch of using signal jammers. It was found the hotel has been using equipment to block Wi-Fi hotspots frequencies since 2012, and the FCC ordered Marriott International to cease "unlawful use of Wi-Fi blocking technology" and to take steps to improve its Internet monitoring practices.

"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," said LeBlanc. "This practice puts consumers in the untenable position of either paying twice for the same service or forgoing Internet access altogether."

It's a grey area as the hotel says it made use of FCC-authorised equipment provided by reputable manufacturers to protect guests from using rogue hotspots which could be a security risk and result in theft of data.

"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," the company said in a statement. "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."

The company will push for the FCC to create rules that "eliminate the ongoing confusion" from the settlement, Marriott said.

Do you think Marriott was right to block its guests’ Wi-Fi hotspots? Let us know in the comments.

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PaulV
8 Oct 2014, 8:36 a.m.

I do believe that any commercial organization has the right to interfere with personal communication responsibilities. So any available hotspot should be left accessible for clients at their choice. Clients are responsible for their own secure communication as well as Marriott International is for it's communication.

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GandalfTheWhite
14 Oct 2014, 12:24 p.m.

Marriot is cancelled from my hotel options

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