FCC Fines Marriott For Jamming Customers' WiFi Hotspots To Push Them Onto Hotel's $1,000 Per Device WiFi
from the sleazy-sleazy dept
Hotel WiFi sucks. If you do any traveling, you’re aware of this. Though, from what I’ve seen, the higher end the hotel, the worse the WiFi is and the more insane its prices are. Cheap discount hotels often offer free WiFi, and it’s generally pretty reliable. High end hotels? I’ve seen prices of $30 per day or higher, and it’s dreadfully low bandwidth. These days, when traveling, I often pick hotels based on reviews of the WiFi quality, because nothing can be more frustrating than a crappy internet connection when it’s needed. But, even worse than the WiFi in your room, if you’re using the WiFi for a business meeting or event — the hotels love to price gouge. And, it appears that’s exactly what the Marriott-operated Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville did. Except, the company went one step further. Thanks to things like tethering on phones and MiFi devices that allow you to set up your own WiFi hotspot using wireless broadband, Marriott realized that some smart business folks were getting around its (absolutely insane) $1,000 per device WiFi charges, and just using MiFi’s. So, Marriott then broke FCC regulations and started jamming the devices to force business folks to pay its extortionate fees.
In response, the FCC has now cracked down and Marriott has agreed to pay a $600,000 fine for the practice, while also promising to continue to make sure it doesn’t make use of jammers and to update the FCC on “compliance” every three months for the next three years. The FCC found out about all of this because a customer sent in a complaint — though its unclear if the customer just figured it out by themselves, or if some employee at Opryland stupidly admitted to the hotel’s practices.
Update: Oh, and I missed the best part, as pointed out in the comments. Marriott is still claiming that what it did was legal… and for the benefit of consumers. Uh huh:
“Marriott has a strong interest in ensuring that when our guests use our Wi-Fi service, they will be protected from rogue wireless hot spots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber-attacks and identity theft,” the statement said. “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 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.”