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January 26, 2015
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Americas: Can Venues Block Your Wi-Fi? Industry Waiting for FCC


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Last October, the Federal Communications Commission fined Marriott International $600,000 for intentionally jamming some of its customers’ Wi-Fi connections in the meeting space at Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Convention Center in Nashville. Marriott said it had blocked third-party Wi-Fi connections in meeting spaces in order to protect its own network—and customers—from “imposter” hotspots and other potential attacks that could compromise cyber security and put personal or corporate data at risk. Complainants said Marriott prevented users “from connecting to the Internet via their own personal Wi-Fi networks when these users did not pose a threat to the security of the Gaylord Opryland”—that the real reason, in other words, was to capture revenue from fees charged to access the Internet through the hotel’s wireless network.

Soon after agreeing to pay the fine, Marriott filed a petition with the FCC asking it to explain what legal measures a venue can take to prevent malicious attacks on its wireless network, and specifically asking the FCC to state that “the operation of FCC-authorized equipment by a Wi-Fi operator in managing its network on its premises does not violate [FCC rules] even though it may result in ‘interference with or cause interference’ to a Part 15 device [i.e., low-power, non-licensed transmitter] being used by a guest on the operator’s property.”

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