Marriott Gives Up For Now On Plan To Jam Guests’ Personal Wifi Hotspots

Marriott got a big fat fine from the FCC last year for illegally blocking customers’ personal wifi hotspots. The chain paid the fine, but doesn’t want another one. Their solution? Ask the FCC to make what they did legal going forward. But after widespread backlash from tech companies, customers, and basically everyone on the internet, Marriott is now backing away from the plan.

In a brief statement issued late yesterday, the chain said, “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.”

Marriott’s claim with the FCC was that blocking personal wifi hotspots was essential to guarantee the safety and integrity of the company’s own wifi network, and the statement concludes by once again diving behind that cover: “Marriott remains committed to protecting the security of Wi-Fi access in meeting and conference areas at our hotels. 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.”

The saga began when the FCC fined the company $600,000 last fall for illegally jamming personal wifi hotspots in a Nashville convention center in 2013.

Instead of doing some corporate introspection about the limited virtues of nickeling and diming consumers to death, Marriott decided that the best way to avoid incurring such a penalty again in the future was to petition the FCC to make it legal for them to jam personal wifi hotspots on their properties.

Other hotel chains and trade groups chimed in to the proceeding on Marriott’s side. Tech giants Microsoft and Google, among others, stood on the other side, filing responses that Marriott should be allowed to do no such thing.

Over the holidays, Marriott tried to placate the hordes burying them in bad PR by clarifying that they didn’t want to block personal wifi hotspots in guest rooms, but only in the shared spaces where you actually need to use one. But since the people who work at, attend, and cover conventions like being able to use the internet to do their jobs while at those conventions, that argument didn’t fly either.

Marriott’s statement is good news for consumers in the short term. However, their FCC petition is still an open proceeding that the Commission will have to deal with one way or the other.

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