You’d think that hotels and convention centers would be well aware by now that the Federal Communications Commission does not tolerate any interference with business travelers’ right to use a personal Wi-Fi hot spot. But apparently the message hasn’t yet hit home with some companies.
Three months ago, the agency slapped a big $750,000 fine on Smart City Holdings for blocking personal Wi-Fi hot spots at five big U.S. convention centers where it provides Internet services.
And in the fall of 2014, it levied a $650,000 penalty on Marriott for a similar infraction at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville.
In its latest enforcement actions, the FCC said it intends to impose a $718,000 fine on a firm called M.C. Dean for blocking personal Wi-Fi signals at the Baltimore Convention Center. Business travelers attending conventions there who couldn’t use their personal hot spots and needed to link up to the Internet would have to pay M.C. Dean as much as $1,095 per event to get online, the FCC said.
The agency said it received a complaint about the practice at the facility, and sent its own field agents to Baltimore to see what was going on. It found that M.C. Dean blocked personal Wi-Fi “on dozens of occasions in the past year,” the FCC said. The company’s technology was so good at blocking signals that it “appears to have blocked Wi-Fi hotspots outside the venue, including passing vehicles,” the FCC noted.
The agency also slapped a $25,000 fine on Hilton for stonewalling the FCC’s attempts to gather information on complaints alleging Wi-Fi hot spot blocking at some of the lodging giant’s hotels. The FCC said it has been trying for a year without success to get answers from Hilton about the company’s “Wi-Fi management practices at Hilton-brand properties in the United States.”
The agency said it got a complaint in August 2014 about the Hilton Anaheim blocking Wi-Fi hot spots and demanding guests pay a $500 fee to access Hilton’s network. “The commission has also received Wi-Fi blocking complaints involving other Hilton properties,” the agency said.
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