Smart City Holdings, LLC, an Internet and telecommunications service provider for hotels, meeting centers and conventions, has agreed to pay a $750,000 fine for blocking personal mobile “hotspots” established by convention visitors and exhibitors to avoid paying the company’s $80 per day Internet access charge.
According to an Order issued by the Commission in August 2015, the illegal blocking came to light as a result of an informal complaint filed with the FCC by a company that provides equipment for establishing hotspots. In the complaint, the company noted that its customers could not connect to the Internet at several venues where Smart City operated or managed Wi-Fi access. In response to a subsequent investigation by the Commission’s Spectrum Enforcement Division, Smart City admitted to intentionally blocking Wi-Fi access to the Internet at several venues to prevent users from bypassing its services.
In addition to the monetary forfeiture, Smart City has also agreed to establish a compliance plan to ensure that employees of the company do not engage in Wi-Fi blocking activities in the future. The company is also required to file Compliance Reports with the Commission every three months for the next three years.
The Communications Act expressly forbids any person or entity from willfully or maliciously interfering with or cause interference with any licensed or authorized radio communications.
This is the second such instance of enforcement by the FCC in connection with the blocking of WiFi signals. As we’ve previously reported (November 2014), Marriott International, Inc. and Marriott Hotel Services, Inc. agreed to pay $600,000 in fines to settle charges that its employees intentionally interfered with and disabled Wi-Fi networks set up by consumers at its hotel and conference center in Nashville, TN.