Freeing the public's airwaves

Marriott will unshackle its guests’ mobile Wi-Fi hotspots

Marriott International has caved under the public outcry over its Wi-Fi blocking policies. On Wednesday the hotel chain said it would no longer try to shut down the personal Wi-Fi hotspots its guest create using smartphones and MiFi-like modems.

“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’s statement read.

But it doesn’t look like the hotel chain has entirely abandoned its quest to control the so-called “rogue” access points on its properties. The company said it is still concerned about the security implications of such brought-in networks in its conference facilities and meeting rooms.

“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 said.

After the Federal Communications Commission fined Marriott $600,000 for using radio jamming techniques to nullify personal hotspots at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Marriott joined a petition from the American Hotel and Lodging Association asking the FCC to change its rules on Wi-Fi blocking. A Marriott spokesman told Re/Code that the hotel is still backing that petition. So while this may be a victory for road warriors who carry their Wi-Fi in their pocket, it may just be a temporary one.

Hopefully the FCC will reject any such a request. The whole point of the unlicensed airwaves used by Wi-Fi is that no one owns them. Giving an industry or a property owner the right to dictate how its local airwaves are used would be a horrible precedent.

 

 

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