The Federal Communications Commission issued a warning for hotels that blocking Wi-Fi is "illegal."
The question came up when Marriott began blocking personal hotspots to force customers to buy the hotel's own Wi-Fi, according to Ars Technica. The FCC fined Marriott $600,000 in October for doing just that in Nashville, Tenn. Although the hotel chain paid the fine, it asked for permission to block customer hotspots.
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In the FCC enforcement advisory it said, "Persons or businesses causing intentional interference to Wi-Fi hotspots are subject to enforcement action. . . . No hotel, convention center, or other commercial establishment or the network operator providing services at such establishments may intentionally block or disrupt personal Wi-Fi hot spots on such premises, including as part of an effort to force consumers to purchase access to the property owner’s Wi-Fi network." The FCC called any action that would do this "illegal" and would be subject to fines.
It's rare that we have a story where the FCC seems to be the voice of reason against a clearly bad decision, but Marriott's actions were neither customer-friendly nor good business. We know that many hotels, especially upscale ones, charge a lot of money for Wi-Fi when more inexpensive lodgings offer it free to customers. The reason? Because they feel wealthier people will pay for it or it will be a business expense charged to a company. Apparently the Wi-Fi charges equal millions which is why the chain doesn't want to stop charging for it, but it has no right to block personal hotspots.