Marriott Delivers On Agreement Not To Block Wi-Fi

As promised, the Marriott hotel chain has agreed not to limit guests' use of their own Wi-Fi.

"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," it said. It was also listening to the FCC.

In October, Marriott agreed to pay $600,000 to settle FCC allegations it had intentionally blocked Wi-Fi networks of consumers in its conference facilities at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville in violation of the law. ( It also agreed to stop the practice.

Cable operators are continuing to extend their broadband footprint mobility via hundreds of thousands of hot spots.

Marriott had admitted that its employees improperly blocked mobile hot spots. Marriott employees used a monitoring system to identify and prevent individuals from connecting to the Internet via their own Wi-Fi nets, while charging consumers, businesses and exhibitors up to $1,000 per device to access Marriott's own Wi-Fi network.

"Marriott remains committed to protecting the security of Wi-Fi access in meeting and conference areas at our hotels," the company said in a statement on its Web site. "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."

In November, Marriott and other hotels asked the FCC to tell them how they could manage their networks. Last August, Marriott, joined by the American Hotel and Lodging Association and Ryman Hospitality properties, asked the FCC for either a declaratory ruling that it was allowed to manage its Wi-Fi on-premises network as it saw fit or, in the alternative, to open a rulemaking on the issue. (

The hotel operators want to know the extent to which they can manage their networks without running afoul of FCC rules that say that "[n]o person shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications..." They would prefer that the FCC declare that a Wi-Fi network operator does not violate that by using FCC-authorized equipment to "mitigate threats" to the security and reliability of their networks."

They argue that they need to be able to do so given that almost any smart phone or tablet can now serve as its own Wi-Fi hot spot from which an attack on their network can be launched.

And while network management sounds like a network neutrality issue, the hotels say that the petition does not implicate network neutrality because they do not apply to "premise operators" like coffee shops and bookstores that acquire Wi-Fi access from ISPs.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.