Sometimes businesses -- like people, governments and non-profit organizations -- act stupidly. So it is that the hotel management company Marriott tried to boost Wi-Fi revenues at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn., by actively preventing use of Wi-Fi hotspot technology inside the convention center spaces.
After an investigation, the Enforcement Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission fined Marriott $600,000 for violating Section 333 of the Communications Act of 1934.
In March 2013, the Commission received a complaint from an individual who had attended a function at the Gaylord Opryland.
The complaint was that the Gaylord Opryland was “jamming mobile hotspots so that you can’t use them in the convention space.”
Marriott admitted that one or more of its employees used containment features of a Wi-Fi monitoring system at the Gaylord Opryland to prevent consumers from connecting to the Internet via their own personal Wi-Fi networks, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
Section 333 of the Communications Act stipulates that “no person shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications of any station licensed or authorized by or under this Act or operated by the United States Government.”
The FCC (News - Alert) previously has ruled that the use of jammers to interfere with Wi-Fi transmissions violates provisions of the Communications Act.
Most of us probably did not know that. Some of you know that many hotels charge for a variety of services to exhibitors at trade shows and meetings, such as providing Internet access, carpets, chairs, tables and waste baskets, for a fee.
So the Marriott here apparently was acting to prevent exhibitors or attendees inside the convention center from substituting use of their own Internet connections for purchase of such connectivity from the hotel.
Marriott makes available various Internet-related services for meeting planners, exhibitors, and their customers to use in the Gaylord Opryland meeting rooms and convention center, although they are not required to purchase these services from Marriott but can instead use other vendors.
Under the former practice, meeting planners, exhibitors and people inside the convention center who wanted to use their own connections were prevented from doing so.
To be fair, one might make an argument that hotel management sometimes has a legitimate concern about “rogue” Wi-Fi networks that interfere with services available to guests or other customers.
That doesn’t seem to be the case here. Marriott was apparently trying to force customers to buy hotel access when they had other ways of supplying their own.
It was dumb, stupid, illegal and now counterproductive. You can say what you will about the need for markets to discipline bad actors, or government action to do the same.
Whatever happened to people behaving ethically?
Edited by Rory J. Thompson
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