Marriott asks FCC for permission to block some outside Wi-Fi

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will soon decide whether to lay down rules regarding hotels' ability to block personal Wi-Fi hotspots inside their buildings, a practice that recently earned Marriott International a $600,000 fine.

Back in August, Marriott, business partner Ryman Hospitality Properties, and trade group the American Hotel and Lodging Association asked the FCC to clarify when hotels can block outside Wi-Fi hotspots in order to protect their internal Wi-Fi services, reports PC World.

In that petition, the hotel group asked the agency to "declare that the operator of a Wi-Fi network does not violate [U.S. law] by using FCC-authorized equipment to monitor and mitigate threats to the security and reliability of its network," even when taking action causes interference to mobile devices.

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The comment period for the petition ended Friday, so now it's up to the FCC to either agree to Marriott's petition or disregard it, reports InfoWorld. The FCC did act in October fining Marriott after customers complained about the practice. In their complaint, customers alleged that employees of Marriott's Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville used signal-blocking features of a Wi-Fi monitoring system to prevent customers from connecting to the Internet through their personal Wi-Fi hotspots. The hotel charged customers and exhibitors $250 to $1,000 per device to access Marriott's Wi-Fi network.

“Hilton could not meet its guests’ expectations were it unable to manage its Wi-Fi networks, including taking steps to protect against unauthorized access points that pose a threat to the reliability and security of that network,” Hilton Worldwide wrote in support of Marriott and the hotel industry’s request made public Monday.

Microsoft and Google have recently joined the wireless industry’s lobbying group and a handful of other parties in opposing the hotel industry’s petition. Opponents of the proposal basically argued in filings late Monday that the hotel industry is just trying to keep guests and exhibitors dependent on pricy hotel wireless networks, ReCode reports. They suggested hotels have other options for protecting Wi-Fi networks than jamming personal hotspots.

“Allowing hotels or other property owners deliberately to block third parties’ access to Wi-Fi signals would undermine the public interest benefits of unlicensed use,” Google said in a filing opposing the hotel association’s request. Microsoft also asked the agency to kill the request.

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