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Marriott Fined $600,000 for Wi-Fi Blocking

According to a story in USA Today, Marriott International will pay $600,000 to resolve a Federal Communications Commission investigation into whether a hotel's employees blocked customers from using their personal Wi-Fi networks and then charged them to use the hotel network.

The FCC says that employees at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville disabled Wi-Fi networks established by consumers at its conference facilities. They then charged guests from $250 to $1,000 per device for access to the hotel network.

"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," FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc said in a statement. "This practice puts consumers in the untenable position of either paying twice for the same service or forgoing Internet access altogether."
The investigation began after a March 2013 complaint from someone who attended a function at the resort. That person, according to the FCC, alleged that the hotel was "jamming mobile hotspots so that you can't use them in the convention space."

The FCC says its investigation found that employees used "features of a Wi-Fi monitoring system at the Gaylord Opryland to contain and/or de- authenticate guest-created Wi-Fi hotspot access points in the conference facilities."

Marriott issued a statement, saying that it believes the actions of employees at the Gaylord Opryland were lawful. The complete response to the FCC is below:

“Marriott has a strong interest in ensuring that when our guests use our Wi-Fi service, they will be protected from rogue wireless hotspots 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 Gaylord 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.”

According to the USA Today story, in addition to paying the fine, Marriott will have to develop a plan to improve how it monitors and uses its Wi-Fi network at the Gaylord Opryland, the FCC says. The company will have to file progress reports to the FCC every three months for three years.
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