In this world of near-ubiquitous internet access, most hotel visitors might expect free access to a hotel’s WiFi network to be more or less a given. It seems, however, that the more expensive a hotel is (at least in the United States), the less true this is, and it is not uncommon for high class establishments to charge between $250 to $1000 per device to connect to their networks.
It therefore comes as little surprise that guests would rather access the internet using their own mobile networks, and turn to using their own portable WiFi hotspots in order to allow them use their tablets and notebooks.
This does of course not please top hotels such as Marriott, who has now found itself in trouble for remotely disabling guests’ private WiFi networks. In October the FCC fined the top hotel chain $600,000 for preventing customers from using their own Wi-Fi devices at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville.
Marriott’s excuse was ‘security concerns’, arguing that its measures were justified in order to protect guests from rogue Wi-Fi networks set up by criminals to steal data.
Now, it has to be admitted that a bunch people wondering around a busy conference each broadcasting their own wireless network does present a real security concern, but this would have been utterly unnecessary in the first place had the Mariott owned hotel not tried to gauge its guests with exorbitant WiFi fees in the first place (and heaven forbid the notion of actually offering them free WiFi!)
Marriott, unsurprisingly, remains unhappy at the ruling, and it has now petitioned the FCC to create an exception to rules that prohibit anyone from ‘willful or malicious interference’ with wireless communications that are ‘licensed or authorized’ by the government.
The hotel chain argues that because personal WiFi hotspots do not use licensed frequencies, they do not deserve the same protection as licensed ones, even though the WiFi devices have themselves been licensed!
This ridiculous petition only serves to demonstrate the naked greed of corporate interests who show an utter and ruthless contempt for their customers.