Marriott Slapped With $600K Fine After Blocking Guest Wi-Fi

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Hotel giant Marriott International has been forced to pay out $600,000 after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) found employees of a Nashville hotel deliberately blocked Wi-Fi access unless customers used the hotel’s own service, which was charged at up to $1,000 per device.

The civil penalty was meted out after an FCC investigation was conducted following a complaint by an individual who attended a function at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

The complainant said the hotel was deliberately “jamming mobile hotspots so that you can’t use them in the convention space,” whilst charging attendees anywhere from $250-$1,000 to connect to the Gaylord Wi-Fi in that part of the facility.

The FCC agreed, saying the Marriott chain had broken section 333 of the Communications Act by using a Wi-Fi monitoring system at the hotel to “contain and/or de-authenticate guest created Wi-Fi hotspot access points” in the conference facilities.

However, the hotel group has hit back at the judgement, arguing that it was only doing so to “protect” its customers from “rogue wireless hotspots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber-attacks and identity theft.”

It added:

“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.  We believe that the Gaylord Opryland's actions were lawful.  We will continue to encourage the FCC to pursue a rulemaking in order to eliminate the ongoing confusion resulting from today's action and to assess the merits of its underlying policy.”

As part of its penance, the Marriott must cease its Wi-Fi blocking activities and implement a “compliance plan,” filing reports to the FCC Enforcement Bureau every three months for three years explaining the use of any “access point containment” features it is using.

Despite the FCC’s ruling, Wi-Fi security remains a legitimate concern.  Last week a report from F-Secure revealed a worrying lack of public awareness when it comes to the potential risks of using public hotspots.

Some even clicked through a T&Cs clause which said if they used the specially commissioned Wi-Fi access point they would be required to hand over their first born.


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