Marriott International agreed to pay $600,000 to settle a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) probe into the hotel company’s alleged effort to prevent convention attendees from accessing their private WiFi services.
The FCC’s investigation was spurred by a March 2013 complaint from a convention attendee at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, a Marriott-managed property.
The FCC said that that Marriott blocked and disabled, or “jammed,” attendees’ personal WiFi networks for their mobile devices.
“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,” Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc said in a statement.
“It is unacceptable for any hotel to intentionally disable personal hotspots while also charging consumers and small businesses high fees to use the hotel’s own Wi-Fi network.”
Marriott, in a separate statement, said its actions were lawful and were conducted in the name of stopping cyber-crime and preventing its on-site service from being compromised.
“Marriott has a strong interest inensuring that when our guests use our Wi-Fi service, they will be protectedfrom rogue wireless hotspots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber-attacks and identity theft,” the company said in the statement.
“Like many other institutions and companies in a wide variety of industries, including hospitals and universities, the Gaylord Opryland protected its WiFi network by using FCC-authorized equipment provided by well-known, reputable manufacturers.”
In addition to paying the fine, Marriott will submit compliance reports verifying that it’s not unlawfully preventing customer WiFi access at its properties. Marriott is mandated to provide these reports every three months for the next three years.