It seems as though cooler heads have prevailed over at Marriott International. The hotel chain has decided to drop plans that would block customers from using their own personal Wi-Fi hotspots -- Internet services that they have already paid for -- and push them to use overpriced Marriott Internet services.
Marriott posted the following message to its official site this week:
Marriott International listens to its customers, and we will not block guests from using their personal Wi-Fi devices at any of our managed hotels. Marriott remains committed to protecting the security of Wi-Fi access in meeting and conference areas at our hotels. We will continue to look to the FCC to clarify appropriate security measures network operators can take to protect customer data, and will continue to work with the industry and others to find appropriate market solutions that do not involve the blocking of Wi-Fi devices.
Marriott originally came under fire when it was revealed that its Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee installed jamming equipment in conference rooms to purposely block Wi-Fi signals given off by customers’ personal Internet hotspots. When customers would complain about the lack of Wi-Fi reception, front desk personnel would offer Marriott’s high-speed Internet services at costs ranging from $250 to $1,000.
Marriott International's Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center
The FCC hit Marriott with a $600,000 fine and ordered the company to remove the unlicensed jamming equipment. But Marriott didn’t stop there; it brought in the help of the American Hospitality and Lodging Association (AHLA) to petition the FCC to allow the blocking of Wi-Fi signals (this time without the use of illegal jamming equipment). Both Marriott and AHLA cited security and network performance as reasons to allow these dastardly operations to continue.
With the FCC already breathing down its neck, the last thing that Marriott needed was opposition from industry heavy hitters; but that’s exactly what it got. Both Google and Microsoft joined forces to oppose Marriott’s actions, with Microsoft writing, “The hotel can effectively force the customer to purchase the hotel’s Wi-Fi services to gain access, even though the customer has already paid her mobile operator for personal hotspot capability.”
It is unclear which straw broke the camel’s back in this case, but we’re just glad that Marriott International came to its senses in what amounted to “double billing” for its hotel patrons.