FCC to Businesses: Blocking Wi-Fi Is 100% Illegal

Josh WolfordTechnology

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The Federal Communications Commission has stated, unequivocally, that businesses which interfere with consumers' Wi-Fi are in direct violation of the law.

"In the 21st Century, Wi-Fi, represents an essential on-ramp to the internet. Personal Wi-Fi networks, or “hot spots,” are an important way that consumers connect to the Internet. Willful or malicious interference with Wi-Fi hot spots is illegal," says the FCC in a new Enforcement Advisory.

"Wi-Fi blocking violates Section 333 of the Communications Act, as amended. The Enforcement Bureau has seen a disturbing trend in which hotels and other commercial establishments block wireless consumers from using their own personal Wi-Fi hot spots on the commercial establishment’s premises. As a result, the Bureau is protecting consumers by aggressively investigating and acting against such unlawful intentional interference."

The FCC's notice comes in response to a recent case involving the Marriott hotel chain. The company was fined $600,000 for blocking customers' personal Wi-Fi hotspots at a Nashville, Tennessee location.

The FCC refers to the case specifically, saying,

"In 2014, the Enforcement Bureau conducted an investigation, culminating with a Consent Decree, into this kind of unlawful activity by the operator of a resort hotel and convention center.2In that case, Marriott International, Inc. deployed a Wi-Fi deauthentication protocol to deliberately block consumers who sought to connect to the Internet using their own personal Wi-Fi hot spots. Marriott admitted that the customers it blocked did not pose a security threat to the Marriott network and agreed to settle the investigation by paying a civil penalty of $600,000."

And according to the FCC, it's been getting more and more complaints regarding Wi-Fi blocking in other businesses across the country.

The FCC makes it pretty clear what's illegal:

No hotel, convention center, or other commercial establishment or the network operator providing services at such establishments may intentionally block or disrupt personal Wi-Fi hot spots on such premises, including as part of an effort to force consumers to purchase access to the property owner’s Wi-Fi network. Such action is illegal and violations could lead to the assessment of substantial monetary penalties.

So, for now, this is definitive. If you think your Wi-Fi is being jammed – complain.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Josh Wolford

Josh Wolford is a writer for WebProNews. He likes beer, Japanese food, and movies that make him feel weird afterward. Mostly beer.

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