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Update: Marriott Slinks Away from Wi-Fi Fight

3 Feb, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Marriott International  and the FCC locked horns in an argument over the hotel’s practice of blocking free wi-fi access on parts of its properties. Now, four months later, Marriott has been the first to blink, dropping its petition to the FCC to change its rules regarding access.

As you’ll recall, back in October, Marriott was fined $600,000 by the FCC after it was discovered the that Marriott had intentionally jammed conference attendee’s personal wi-fi networks at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

Jamming the network had allowed Marriott to charge conference exhibitors $250 to $1,000, per device or per access point to use the Gaylord’s Wi-Fi connection. (Marriott agreed to the FCC's fine at the time but defended its practice by saying it was defending its own network from outside threats). The fight rolled on, with Marriott filing a petition to the FCC.

In January, noted website ArsTechnica, Marriott promised that it would not block the Wi-Fi hotspots of its customers any longer, but stopped short of saying that it would rescind its notice of proposed rulemaking to the FCC, perhaps hoping that a change of heart from the commission would allow it to take up its old practices again. Instead, the FCC issued a blunt “Enforcement Advisory” telling Marriott that blocking Wi-Fi in hotels was prohibited.

In a statement to ArsTechnica, Marriott International CIO Bruce Hoffmeister wrote, "Marriott International has decided to withdraw as a party to the petition seeking direction from the FCC on legal Wi-Fi security measures.”

Legal wi-fi security measures? Well, it’s one way of trying to save face.

Subsequently, the The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA), which had backed Marriott in its fight to permit Wi-Fi blocking, also withdrew its petition to the FCC on the matter.

One thing for certain: hotel chains, hungry for group business, can be expected to capitalize on their free wi-fi as a selling point when it comes to trade shows, sports events and other large bookings that take up exhibit hall and convention center space.

Read the full article here.

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