Marriott International Inc. has agreed to pay a $600,000 civil penalty for blocking visitors from utilizing personal Wi-Fi networks at Nashville's Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center, one of the biggest hotel and convention centers in the eastern U.S.
The Federal Communications Commission announced a settlement with Marriott on Friday, which bans Marriott from utilizing the blocking feature on its Wi-Fi monitoring system at Gaylord Opryland. The FCC blamed Marriott for blocking personal Wi-Fi signals in convention centers forcing guests to use its chargeable Wi-Fi services.
“It is unacceptable for any hotel to intentionally disable personal hot spots 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.
Marriott, in a statement said the blocking was done in an attempt to protect visitors from "rogue wireless hotspots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber-attacks and identity theft."
"We believe that the Opryland's actions were lawful," Marriott spokesman Jeff Flaherty said in a written statement. “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.”
Frequent flyers most commonly carry personal Wi-Fi hotspots that can connect to the Internet through cellphone towers. For as meager as $50 a month, individuals can connect to Internet at any time, any place, thereby dodging heavy internet charges that are charged by hotels, airports and conference centers. Some people even upgrade their wireless data plans in order to make their smartphones personal Wi-Fi hotspots.
An individual, who attended an event at the Gaylord Opryland in March 2013, wrote a complaint to the FCC claiming that Mariott “was jamming mobile hot spots so that you can’t use them in the convention space.” The FCC, after a profound investigation found that employees of the Gaylord Opryland had been blocking guests personal Wi-Fi hotspots, thereby forcing them to spit out anywhere between $250 to $1,000 to utilize the Gaylord's Wi-Fi service in the convention centers.
Under the consent decree, Marriott must quit utilizing Wi-Fi blocking technology and file reports with the FCC for three years, alongside paying the civil penalty.