On Friday, October 3, the Federal Communications Commission declared that Marriot could not force customers to buy their Internet by blocking the use of personal hotspots. Marriot Hotels admitted to intentionally blocking visitors from connecting to the Internet via mobile broadband. Visitors were then forced to use the hotel’s WiFi access, which on average costs $14.99 a day, charging separately for different devices. The visitors using hotspots were reportedly sent “de-authentication packets” to the devices, which subsequently disconnected their laptops, tablets, and phones.
Under Section 333 of the Communications Act forbids the use of “cell jammers” designed to block, ham or interfere with authorized radio communications. Section 333, specifically
…prohibits willful or malicious interference with the radio communications of any station licensed or authorized under the Act or operated by the US government.”
As Marriot is has been found to be in violation of the federal law, the company is faced with a $600,000 fine, as well as a mandate to file report every three months with the FCC in order to prove adherence federal regulations. Travis LeBlanc, enforcement official with the FCC says,
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.”
Marriot maintains its actions were legal and used FCC-approved equipment to protect it’s wireless network. A spokesman for the company claims,
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.”
Want more information on the FCC Communications Act? Click Here.
Read more here- “FCC to Marriott: No, You Cant Force Customers Onto Terrible hotel WiFi,” (Brian Fung, The Washington Post)