Marriott fined $600k for blocking guests’ personal Wi-Fi hotspots

Marriott Opryland hotel blocked wi-fi hotspots of guests

I’ve never understood why it seems like the more money you pay for a hotel room the less free the internet is — per device, mind you. Apparently at least one (you know it’s more than one!) fancy hotel was a bit overly aggressive in trying to get their guests to shell out $250 to $1,000 per wireless access point by actively blocking the personal wi-fi hotspots of their guests!

The Federal Communications Commission has fined Marriott Hotels $600,000 after it was determined that their Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee had been blocking non-Marriott hotspots since 2012.

Here is an excerpt from the court order and consent decree including a summary of the charges and Marriott’s punishment:

In March 2013, the Commission received a complaint from an individual who had attended a function at the Gaylord Opryland. The complainant alleged that the Gaylord Opryland had used wireless technology to prevent him from using his Wi-Fi mobile hotspot in the hotel’s conference center. The Bureau investigated the complaint in order to assess Marriott’s compliance with Section 333 of the Act. In the course of its investigation, the Bureau discovered that one or more Marriott employees had used the containment capability discussed in paragraph 5 in a manner that the Bureau believes violates Section 333. Specifically, such employees had used this capability to prevent users from connecting to the Internet via their own personal Wi-Fi networks when these users did not pose a threat to the security of the Gaylord Opryland network or its guests. Subsequent to learning of the Bureau’s investigation, Marriott instructed the properties under its management or control not to use this containment capability in the manner it had been used at the Gaylord Opryland.

To resolve the Bureau’s investigation, Marriott is required, among other things, (i) to pay a $600,000 civil penalty to the United States Treasury,(ii) to develop and implement a compliance plan, and (iii) to submit periodic compliance and usage reports, including information documenting to the Bureau any use of containment functionalities of Wi-Fi monitoring systems, at any U.S. property that Marriott manages or owns.

“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. “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,” he added.

Here’s the full document:

It appears you don’t have a PDF plugin for this browser. No biggie… you can click here to download the PDF file.

Kudos to whoever the person was who tipped off the FCC and kudos to the FCC for following up!

On a side note, if anyone from Priceline is reading this, PLEASE add “Free Wi-Fi” and “free parking” to the list of options when finding a hotel room!

H/T: The Daily Dot

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