FCC Continues To Cracks Down Wi-Fi Blocking; Hilton Faces Penalty

FCC Continues To Cracks Down Wi-Fi Blocking; Hilton Faces Penalty

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) continues to crack down hotels and other entities engaged in Wi-Fi blocking. Since last year, the Commission already implemented three enforcement actions involving malicious Wi-Fi blocking, which is prohibited by the Communications Act.

Hilton Worldwide joins list accused of Wi-Fi blocking

Hilton Worldwide Holdings joined the list of hotels and convention centers accused of Wi-Fi blocking.

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In August, last year, the FCC received initial complaints from consumers alleging that the Hilton in Anaheim, California blocked their Wi-Fi hot spots, and a $500 fee is required to access the hotel’s Wi-Fi. The Commission said it received similar Wi-Fi blocking complaints involving other Hilton properties.

In response, the FCC launched an investigation into the issue. The Commission sent a letter of inquiry to Hilton Worldwide Holdings and sought information about the company including relevant policies and Wi-Fi management practices at Hilton-brand hotels in the United States. The company failed to provide the information requested by the FCC.

FCC imposed a fine against Hilton Worldwide over obstruction

On Monday, the Enforcement Bureau of the FCC proposed a $25,000 fine against Hilton for its apparent obstruction of the investigation of the allegations that it is engaged in Wi-Fi blocking.

The Bureau ordered Hilton Worldwide Holding to provide relevant information and documents related to its Wi-Fi management practices immediately. The Bureau also warned the company that it could face a higher fine for any continued delay or obstruction.

Aaron Radelet, the spokesperson for Hilton Wioldwide Holding said, “We strongly disagree with the decision by the FCC Enforcement Bureau. Hilton supports open access to private Wi-Fi networks for our customers through their personal devices, while at the same time protecting their personal information. We have a policy in place that states our commitment to secure open access and prohibits hotels from blocking Wi-Fi, and it is repeatedly communicated to all properties.”

In a statement, FCC Enforcement Bureau ChieF Travis LeBlanc said, “Hotel guests deserve to have their Wi-Fi blocking complaints investigated by the Commission. To permit any company to unilaterally redefine the scope of our investigation would undermine the independent search for the truth and the due administration of the law.”

Other hotels penalized by the FCC

The FCC imposed a $600,000 penalty against Marriot International and Marriot Hotel Services for its Wi-Fi blocking activities at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Commission also ordered Smart City Holding to pay a $750,000 fine for similar Wi-Fi blocking at multiple convention centers across the country. M.C. Dean was also ordered to pay a $718,000 fine for its apparent Wi-Fi blocking at the Baltimore Convention Center.

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