FCC Warns Hotels Not to Block Wi-Fi

The agency wants to put a stop to a “disturbing trend.”

Marriott Hotel, Downtown Los Angeles
National Journal
Jan. 27, 2015, 11:35 a.m.

It is il­leg­al for any busi­ness to block per­son­al Wi-Fi net­works, the Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion warned Tues­day.

In a pub­lic ad­vis­ory, the FCC said it is “ag­gress­ively in­vest­ig­at­ing and act­ing” against busi­nesses that il­leg­ally in­ter­fere with Wi-Fi. The agency’s En­force­ment Bur­eau said it has no­ticed a “dis­turb­ing trend” in which ho­tels and oth­er busi­nesses block per­son­al Wi-Fi hot spots.

Last year, the FCC fined Mar­ri­ott ho­tels $600,000 for dis­abling Wi-Fi hot spots. If guests wanted In­ter­net ac­cess, they had to pay up to $1,000 to use Mar­ri­ott’s wire­less net­work.

But Mar­ri­ott and oth­er hotel ad­vocacy groups filed a pe­ti­tion with the FCC, ask­ing it to de­clare that ho­tels can block Wi-Fi net­works as long it’s ne­ces­sary for se­cur­ity pur­poses. Per­son­al Wi-Fi hot spots can in­ter­fere with the hotel’s net­work and cus­tom­ers can ex­pose per­son­al in­form­a­tion by ac­ci­dent­ally log­ging on to the wrong net­work, the ho­tels claimed.

The FCC hasn’t of­fi­cially ruled on Mar­ri­ott’s pe­ti­tion yet. But it’s clear which way the com­mis­sion is head­ing.

“Con­sumers must get what they pay for,” FCC Chair­man Tom Wheel­er said in a state­ment. “The Com­mu­nic­a­tions Act pro­hib­its any­one from will­fully or ma­li­ciously in­ter­fer­ing with au­thor­ized ra­dio com­mu­nic­a­tions, in­clud­ing Wi-Fi. Mar­ri­ott’s re­quest seek­ing the FCC’s bless­ing to block guests’ use of non-Mar­ri­ott net­works is con­trary to this ba­sic prin­ciple.”

He vowed that the FCC will fine any oth­er hotel that tries to in­ter­fere with its guests’ Wi-Fi net­works even while the Mar­ri­ott pe­ti­tion is pending.

Also on Tues­day, Demo­crat­ic FCC Com­mis­sion­er Jes­sica Rosen­wor­cel said she wants to re­ject the pe­ti­tion, call­ing Wi-Fi block­ing a “bad idea.”

“So let’s not let this pe­ti­tion linger or cre­ate any un­cer­tainty. I hope my col­leagues at the FCC will work with me to dis­miss this pe­ti­tion without delay,” she said in a speech at the State of the Net con­fer­ence.

There are five FCC com­mis­sion­ers, and three must vote to take any ac­tion on an is­sue.

Google and Mi­crosoft have also filed com­ments with the FCC ask­ing it to re­ject the Mar­ri­ott pe­ti­tion.

Ros­anna Maietta, a spokes­wo­man for the Amer­ic­an Hotel & Lodging As­so­ci­ation, which joined Mar­ri­ott in its fil­ing to the FCC, said the goal of the pe­ti­tion is “to clear up the con­fu­sion that ex­ists around the steps busi­nesses can take to pro­tect guest data from rogue op­er­at­ors or crim­in­als tar­get­ing the at­tendees at large events and meet­ings.”

“As an in­dustry we seek to ad­dress this chal­lenge while con­tinu­ing to provide ac­cess to se­cure Wi-Fi,” she said, adding that it is “in­cum­bent on policy makers to con­sider how their cur­rent rules may im­pact con­sumer safety and se­cur­ity.”

What We're Following See More »
SAYS HE WAS THREATENED BY TRUMP
Cohen Postpones Testimony
15 hours ago
THE LATEST
INCLUDES KUSHNER
House Democrats Investigating White House Security Clearances
18 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The House Oversight Committee is launching an investigation into the White House security clearance process, an inquiry that promises to put a spotlight on how President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, overcame concerns to gain access to highly classified information." Others to be investigated are former staffer Seb Gorka, National Security Adviser John Bolton, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, former Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland, and former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter.

Source:
IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE NEXT WEEK
House GOP Cancels Retreat
20 hours ago
THE LATEST
UNLIKELY EITHER BILL WILL PASS
Senate Will Vote on Competing Plans to End Shutdown
20 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"After spending weeks on the sideline, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has entered the shutdown fray, striking an agreement with Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to vote on competing proposals to reopen the government. The two votes will happen on Thursday...Senators will first have an opportunity to go on the record on President Trump's proposal to extend legal protections for some immigrants for three years in exchange for $5.7 billion for a border wall....If (and when) that bill fails, McConnell will move on to… a 'clean' continuing resolution to reopen the government for three weeks, with no additional border wall money."

Source:
ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING
McConnell Promises a Vote This Week
1 days ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login