Marriott Fined $600,000 By FCC For Jamming Guests’ Wi-Fi Access

In the first time in its history, a private hotel property was investigated by the FCC after it received complaints from guests who claimed that the property was blocking the use of consumer Wi-Fi networks. Following investigation, the Federal Communications Commission found Marriott to be in violation, and eventually imposed a fine of $600,000 on them. Marriott has agreed to pay up the amount.

According to a CNN report, Marriott was hit with the heavy fine by the FCC following investigations carried out at the Marriott’s Gaylord Opryland property in Nashville. The FCC says it had received complaints from guests who stayed at the Nashville property. The guests doubted that the hotel was deliberately blocking consumer Wi-Fi networks in order to force them to use Marriott’s in-house wireless network – for which they used to charge as much as $1,000 per device. According to one of the guests, this behavior by Marriott was observed by him during a conference held at the property last year.

Following the imposition of the fine, the Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc issued the following statement.

“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 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 CNN report also clarified that unlike media reports that say Marriott “jammed” consumer Wi-Fi networks in the property, the hotel did not use a jammer to block signals. Instead, they used their own Wi-Fi signals to block hostpots created by other people.

Following investigation and imposition of the fine, Marriott was also made to sign a FCC consent decree which directs them against blocking guests’ Wi-Fi at all of the properties it owns and manages. The company must also file compliance plans with the FCC every three months for three years.

Marriott on its part has issued the following statement Friday afternoon.

“Marriott has a strong interest in ensuring that when our guests use our Wi-Fi service, they will be protected from rogue wireless hot spots 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. We believe that the 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.”

Do you think that statement by Marriott makes sense? Also note that this is not the first time that Marriott has been in the news for the wrong reasons.

[Image Via Marcus Exner/Flickr]