Marriott hotels will no longer interfere with their guests’ personal Wi-Fi hotspots, the hotel chain announced Wednesday. That includes within the confines of the company’s lucrative convention and trade-show spaces, where it’s charged attendees anywhere between $250 and $1,000 per device for Internet access.
“Marriott International listens to its customers, and we will not block guests from using their personal Wi-Fi devices at any of our managed hotels,” the company posted in the news center on its website.
Of course, hearing your customers gets a whole lot easier when blocking Wi-Fi access results in hefty fines, something Marriott knows about first hand. The hotel chain paid out $600,000 to the Federal Trade Commission in October, after customers complained about blocked Wi-Fi at its Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville.
Prior to receiving the fine, Marriott and the American Hotel & Lodging Association trade group joined forces to file a petition asking for FCC-approved permission to block Wi-Fi access on hotel properties. Marriott attempted to “clarify” its intentions earlier in January, no doubt inspired by the ongoing stink raised by Internet companies and consumer rights groups.
Marriott Cares About You—Really
According to Marriott’s New Year’s statement, guest safety was the hotel chain’s primary concern. The hotel chain said it welcomed guests to use their Internet connectivity devices while in the privacy of their rooms. Those used in its public spaces during events however, “pose a security threat to meeting or conference attendees or cause interference to the conference guest wireless network,” the company said.
Large gatherings of corporate and government officials are inviting to cyber spies, security experts have found. Bad guys do use deceptively named Wi-Fi networks and false software updates to trick hotel guests into exposing their computers. These malefactors, however, are usually exploiting vulnerabilities within hotel networks and the gullibility of uneducated Internet users. So Marriott’s argument against personal Wi-Fi devices doesn’t hold up.
That doesn’t mean Marriott intends to drop the argument. As well as agreeing not to block personal WiFi access at its establishments—a practice for which its already been fined—Marriott’s joint petition with the FCC with the American Hotel & Lodging Association is still pending.
“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,” Marriott said in its Wednesday statement.
If you’ve got something to say to the FCC about the petition to block personal Wi-Fi access, you can do that here on the FCC website.