After public backlash and a stern FCC warning, Marriott has clearly lost the battle for control of Wi-Fi on their properties. Here is a quick recap of the fight:
In March 2013 the FCC received a complaint from a hotel guest who claimed that Marriott had blocked personal hotspots so that conference attendees would have to pay to access the hotel’s Wi-Fi. The FCC investigated the matter and hit Marriott with a $600,000 fine in October 2014. Meanwhile, Marriott filed a petition asking the FCC to clarify their rules and requesting the ability to block hotspots on hotel property in order to ensure stable, secure networks. During a comment period in December 2014 and January 2015, the FCC received notes of opposition from consumer interest groups, amateur radio operators, and tech companies such as Google and Microsoft. The opposing groups argued that Marriott’s attempts to control the internet were unnecessary, illegal, and even immoral.
On January 14, 2015 Marriott quietly bowed out of the fight, issuing a simple statement saying they will not block guests from using personal Wi-Fi devices. In case the $600,000 fine didn’t send a clear enough message to hotels, on January 27th the FCC issued a public warning that intentional Wi-Fi blocking is illegal. The FCC called Marriott and other hotels’ attempts to block hotspots a “disturbing trend” that they are aggressively investigating.
No hotel, convention center, or other commercial establishment or the network operator providing services at such establishments may intentionally block or disrupt personal Wi-Fi hot spots on such premises, including as part of an effort to force consumers to purchase access to the property owner’s Wi-Fi network. Such action is illegal and violations could lead to the assessment of substantial monetary penalties.