Marriott responds to brouhaha raised by Google, others over Wi-Fi petition

After its petition to the FCC asking for clarification on Wi-Fi management rules triggered a slew of opposition from the likes of Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and others, Marriott International released a statement designed to clarify its position.

In an attempt to "set the record straight," Marriott said it "has never been nor will it ever be Marriott's policy to limit our guests' ability to access the Internet by all available means, including through the use of personal Mi-Fi and/or Wi-Fi devices," Re/Code reported.

The hotel chain went on to say that as a matter of fact, "we invite and encourage our guests to use these Internet connectivity devices in our hotels. To be clear, this matter does not involve in any way Wi-Fi access in hotel guestrooms or lobby spaces."

The brouhaha sprang up after Marriott filed a petition, along with the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) and Ryman Hospitality Properties, asking for a ruling from the FCC on the legalities around how Wi-Fi operators manage their networks. They say Wi-Fi operators should have the ability to manage their network so that they can offer secure and reliable service.

The question at hand, according to Marriott's Dec. 30 statement, is what measures a network operator can take to detect and contain rogue and imposter Wi-Fi hotspots used in its meeting and conference spaces that pose a security threat or cause interference to the conference guests' wireless network.

"In light of the increased use of wireless technology to launch cyber-attacks and purposefully disrupt hotel networks, Marriott along with the American Hotel & Lodging Association on behalf of the entire hotel industry is seeking clarity from the FCC regarding what lawful measures a network operator can take to prevent such attacks from occurring," the company said. "We feel this is extremely important as we are increasingly being asked what measures we take to protect our conference and meeting guests and the conference groups that are using Wi-Fi technology in our hotels."

In their comments filed before the Dec. 19 deadline, Google and Microsoft were among those that seized on the "jammer" issue, both citing the commission's prior comments that jammers are illegal, even though the petitioners said their request does not involve signal jammers.

Google also shot down the petitioners' argument that many public and private universities use Wi-Fi network management techniques. "Such practices, which involve preventing unauthorized use of a university's own network, are an entirely different matter than the network blocking at issue here," Google said in its filing. "None of the schools prohibit students, faculty, or guests from accessing other networks not managed by the university itself, as Petitioners seek permission to do."

According to Re/Code, the FCC is expected to make a decision about the hotel industry's proposal in the first half of 2015. 

For more:
- see Marriott's statement
- see this Re/Code article
- see this ReadWrite article

Related articles:
Google, Cisco, Microsoft, others weigh in on Marriott's Wi-Fi network management petition
Marriott, other venues want FCC to clarify Wi-Fi network-management rules
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