The FCC has clamped down hard on establishments trying to block personal WiFi signals and forcing its patrons to use their in-house WiFi instead.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has once and for all banned all commercial establishments, especially hotels, from interfering with personal WiFi signals, or as they are commonly referred to as WiFi hotspots.
Noting the obtrusive practice has got to stop, the FCC released the following statement.
“The [FCC’s] Enforcement Bureau has seen a disturbing trend in which hotels and other commercial establishments block wireless consumers from using their own personal WiFi hot spots on the commercial establishment’s premises. As a result, the Bureau is protecting consumers by aggressively investigating and acting against such unlawful intentional interference.”
This “enforcement advisory” follows the FCC fining Marriott $600,000 for blocking the use of personal WiFi hotspots in the convention center of one of its hotels. The Marriott has been found guilty of interfering with the WiFi signals of guests who were trying to set up their own private WiFi hotspot.
While the Marriott may claim other reasons, common consensus indicates hotels routinely prevent its guests from establishing personal WiFi hotpots to promote or force them into using their own in-house WiFi, which is often highly expensive and many-a-times seems slow due to the sheer number of users on the premises.
The hoteliers claimed the use of such hotspots could compromise the security of their networks, and insisted that the case wasn’t about padding their bottom lines with inflated internet access fees. The Marriott chain specifically claimed it was under the impression it was in the clear to perform de-authentication attacks on its grounds, as opposed to using crude and already clearly outlawed radio-frequency jamming equipment. The FCC disagreed, fining the hotelier.
A de-authentication attack involves bombarding the private WiFi users with special packets that cause them to drop out of the WiFi stream. In simpler words, these packets ensure the WiFi isn’t stable and keeps disconnecting, making the connection unusable and unreliable.
In the face of a public backlash, Marriott backed down on its hotspot ban last month but continued to strongly petition for a change in the rules. The FCC has now made up its mind and the result is a win for common sense.
What this means for guests: People staying at any hotel in the United States can now freely set up their own private WiFi hotspot and may choose to allow other patrons from accessing internet, without needing to shell out exorbitant fees to the hotels.
[Image Credit | Jim Mires/Alamy]