Marriott International will pay the government a $600,000 fine for jamming conference attendees’ own Wi-Fi networks at one of its hotels, forcing them instead to pay as much as $1,000 each to use the hotel’s own connection.
Frequent travelers often carry personal Wi-Fi hotspots — tiny devices that can connect to the Internet via cell phone towers. For $50 a month, they can connect to the Internet on the move, often avoiding hefty fees charged by hotels, airports and conference facilities. Last year, a conference attendee at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee — which is managed by Marriott — found that the hotel was jamming their device in its ballrooms and complained to the Federal Communications Commission. In the complaint, the guest noted that it had happed previously at another Gaylord property.
The FCC said Marriott charged conference exhibitors $250 to $1,000, per device, to use the Gaylord’s Wi-Fi connection.
While agreeing to the fine, Marriott on Friday defended the practice of jamming guests’ own Wi-Fi networks.
“Marriott has a strong interest in ensuring that when our guests use our Wi-Fi service, they will be protected from rogue wireless hotspots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber-attacks and identity theft,” the company said in a statement, adding that hospitals and universities employee similar jamming practices.