Marriott pledges to not block personal Wi-Fi devices at its hotels

Saying it "listens to its customers," Marriott International issued a statement Wednesday saying it will not block guests from using their personal Wi-Fi devices at any of its managed hotels, and as Inc. first reported, the hotel chain will not try to block personal hotspots in its conference and convention areas.

This comes after the hotel chain issued a statement Dec. 30 saying it was not seeking to limit guests' ability to access the Internet in hotel guestrooms or lobby spaces, but it still wanted the FCC to clarify what measures a network operator could take to detect and contain rogue and imposter Wi-Fi hotspots in its meeting and conference spaces.

This week's statement from Marriott says it's not going to block personal hotspots at any of its managed hotels. "Marriott remains committed to protecting the security of Wi-Fi access in meeting and conference areas at our hotels," the statement said. "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."

A Marriott spokesperson did not immediately respond to a FierceWirelessTech request for comment. A Marriott spokesman told Re/code Wednesday night that while the hotel chain has stopped blocking Wi-Fi devices at its properties, it still wants the FCC to consider the petition it filed jointly with the American Hospitality & Lodging Association to allow Wi-Fi blocking.  

While Marriott and the hotel industry have argued that they want clarity on FCC rules due to security concerns, others saw their moves as a way to wring more dollars out of guests and/or conference organizers. Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) were among the companies that filed comments against the petition.

Opposition remains front and center today, as the Care2 group continues circulating a petition asking the FCC not to "cave into" the demands of the hotel industry. The group has gathered more than 7,800 signatures. The group points to Marriott's Dec. 30 statement, where it said the question at hand is what measures a network operator can take to detect and contain rogue and imposter Wi-Fi hotspots used in meeting and conference spaces.

"Care2 petition signers believe this claim is ridiculous, however, because it asserts hotel conference rooms pose a unique threat that say, a coffee shop or library does not," the group said in a press release. 

The Wi-Fi blocking issues came to light last year when Marriott agreed to a $600,000 settlement after allegations emerged that its employees blocked hotspots at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville. The FCC said that Marriott employees had used containment features of a Wi-Fi monitoring system at the hotel to prevent individuals from connecting to the Internet via their own personal Wi-Fi networks. At the same time, the hotel was charging consumers, small businesses and exhibitors as much as $1,000 per device to access Marriott's Wi-Fi network.

At the time the settlement was announced, Marriott said it believed the Gaylord Opryland's actions were lawful and it vowed to continue to encourage the FCC to pursue a rulemaking order "to eliminate the ongoing confusion" resulting from the fine.  

For more:
- see Inc.'s story
- see this Re/code article

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