A company that provides Internet services for major convention centers around the U.S., has been hit by the Federal Communications Commission with a $750,000 fine for blocking the personal mobile Wi-Fi hotspots used by convention attendees and exhibitors.
The latest FCC action comes after a similar penalty last year against Marriott for blocking Wi-Fi hotspots used by meetings attendees at its Opryland Hotel in Nashville, and after the agency issued a stern warning earlier this year about the practice, claiming it had detected a “disturbing trend” in this kind of activity at hotels and conference centers.
In the latest enforcement action, the FCC noted that the company, Smart City Holdings, Inc., charged a whopping $80 fee per day to use its Wi-Fi service at convention centers. “If exhibitors or visitors to the convention centers did not pay this $80 fee, Smart City would automatically block users from accessing the Internet when they instead attempted to use their personal cellular data plans to establish mobile Wi-Fi networks — or ‘hotspots’ — to connect their Wi-Fi enabled devices to the Internet,” the FCC said.
The FCC enforcement investigation found that Smart City was using this tactic at convention centers in Phoenix, Orlando, Indianapolis, Columbus and Cincinnati.
“No evidence exists that the Wi-Fi blocking occurred in response to a specific security threat to Smart City’s network or the users of its network,” the FCC said.
In a response, Smart City conceded that it had “occasionally used” blocking technologies, but only “to prevent wireless devices from significantly interfering with and disrupting the operations of neighboring exhibitors on our convention floors.” The company claimed that this affected “significantly less than 1 percent of all devices being deauthenticated.”
Smart City said it stopped the practice after it was contacted by the FCC in October 2014. The company said it entered into a consent decree with the agency because “mounting a vigorous defense would ultimately prove too costly.”
Have you ever had your wi-fi mysteriously blocked or paid an exorbitant price to connect? Please leave your comments below.
NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Upgraded Hilton HHonors app + New perks for Starwood/AmEx cardholders + Alaska/AA airport lounge benefits + New international routes