Marriott Abandons Petition Seeking Permission To Block Wi-Fi Hotspots

Give Marriott International a half-hearted gold star for finally committing to leaving Wi-Fi hotspots alone. Bruce Hoffmeister, Global Chief Information Office for Marriott, issued a statement saying the hotel chain has decided to withdraw its petition seeking "direction" from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on what legal Wi-Fi blocking efforts might be at its disposable.

"Marriott International has decided to withdraw as a party to the petition seeking direction from the FCC on legal Wi-Fi security measures. Our intent was to protect personal data in Wi-Fi hotspots for large conferences," Hoffmeister said. "We thought we were doing the right thing asking the FCC to provide guidance, but the FCC has indicated its opposition."

The FCC fined Marriott $600,000 last year for blocking Wi-Fi hotspots that hotel guests had attempted to setup, and then charging customers anywhere from $250 to $1,000 for high-speed Internet access. Vendors at the convention were at the mercy of Marriott's policy and pricing.

Marriott Room
Image Source: Marriott International

After being fined, Marriott went back on its policy and said it would no longer block Wi-Fi hotspots, though at the same time it sought clarification from the FCC on whether there were any loopholes in the policy. As far as Marriott was concerned, this was a security issue that was in the best interest of customers, rather than a ploy to force customers to pay high prices for its own Wi-Fi service.

The FCC didn't bite, and even went so far as to outright ban the practice of intentionally interfering with wireless signals.

"Personal Wi-Fi networks, or 'hotspots', are an important way that consumers connect to the Internet," the FCC said. "Willful or malicious interference with Wi-Fi hotspots is illegal. Wi-Fi blocking violates Section 333 of the Communications Act, as amended."

Marriott maintains that it's still looking into security solutions, ones that "do not involve blocking our guests' use of their Wi-Fi devices."