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Marriott Fined $600,000 for Blocking Customers' Wi-Fi

Oct 8, 2014

Hotel chain Marriott International Inc. was fined $600,000 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for blocking hotel customers from connecting to the Internet on personal Wi-Fi networks in order to force them to pay for the hotel’s network.

Marriott employees blocked mobile “hotspots” at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee, and charged consumers, small businesses and exhibitors as much as $1,000 per device to access Marriott’s Wi-Fi network, according to an FCC statement, Bloomberg News reports. “Consumers who purchase cellular data plans should be able to use them without fear that their personal Internet connection will be blocked by their hotel or conference center,” said FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc.

Employees at the hotel’s conference center used technology to disrupt customers’ Wi-Fi transmissions and block Internet access. The hotel charged conference exhibitors and other attendees $250 to $1,000 per device to use the Gaylord Wi-Fi service in the conference facilities.

Under a consent decree entered into with the FCC, Marriott must stop using Wi-Fi blocking technology and must file compliance and usage reports every three months for three years, the FCC said, and, in addition, must pay a civil penalty of $600,000. Marriott, based in Bethesda, Maryland, is the world’s second-largest publicly traded hotel chain, according to Bloomberg News.

Marriott denies wrongdoing and company spokesperson Jeff Flaherty said the company acted to protect customers from “rogue wireless hotspots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber-attacks and identity theft.” In an emailed statement Flaherty said the Gaylord Opryland used “FCC-authorized equipment” to protect its Wi-Fi. Marriott said it “will continue to encourage” the FCC “to assess the merits of its underlying policy,” according to Bloomberg News.

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