FCC Fines Marriott $600K for Jamming WiFi to Bolster Profits
The FCC slapped Marriott International with a fine after it illegally deactivated or blocked WiFi signals from private equipment at a Nashville hotel.Marriott International has been ordered to pay a $600,000 fine to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) after the hotel chain admitted that some of its employees in a Nashville hotel illegally blocked private WiFi signals and customer hotspots so that guests and conference attendees would have to pay to use the hotel's WiFi services. The incident occurred in March 2013 at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn., according to the FCC, when an attendee at a conference being held in the facility found that a mobile hotspot wasn't accessible for use because it had been disabled by the hotel's workers. "The complainant alleged that the Gaylord Opryland was 'jamming mobile hotspots so that you can't use them in the convention space,'" the FCC said in an Oct. 3 statement about its action and fine against Marriott International and its subsidiary, Marriott Hotel Services. "After conducting an investigation, the [FCC] Enforcement Bureau found that employees of Marriott, which has managed the day-to-day operations of the Gaylord Opryland since 2012, had used features of a WiFi monitoring system at the Gaylord Opryland to contain and/or de-authenticate guest-created WiFi hotspot access points in the conference facilities." The complainant, whose name was not revealed by the FCC, reported that similar WiFi blocking had occurred previously at a different Gaylord property, according to the FCC. "And we complained, gave them the router name and they unblocked [it at that location]," the complainant reported. "Now working in the property in Nashville and you can get a few minutes in the [morning] then they jam you. Won't work in the ballrooms."
The private WiFi services were disabled in some cases when Marriott employees "sent de-authentication packets to the targeted access points, which would dissociate consumers' devices from their own WiFi hotspot access points and, thus, disrupt consumers' current WiFi transmissions and prevent future transmissions," the FCC stated. "At the same time that these employees engaged in these practices, Marriott charged conference exhibitors and other attendees anywhere from $250 to $1,000 per device to use the Gaylord WiFi service in the conference facilities."