Google fights Marriott’s plan to block guests’ use of Wi-Fi hotspots

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By David Goldman

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Google and Microsoft have joined a growing chorus of businesses that oppose Marriott’s attempt to block guests’ Wi-Fi hotspots in their hotel rooms.

Marriott and the hotel lobby American Hospitality & Lodging Association asked the FCC this summer to allow hotels to deploy equipment that prevents people from turning their phones into Wi-Fi hotspots.

In order to avoid pricey hotel Wi-Fi charges, many guests opt to use their data allotment from their cell phone provider, connecting their laptops to the Internet via their smartphones.

At Marriott connection rates start at $14.95 per day. For $19.95, guests get “enhanced high speed Internet” which includes video chatting, downloading large files and streaming video.

In its petition to the FCC, Marriott and the hotel lobby argued that guests can use their smartphones or Mi-Fi devices to launch an attack against a hotel’s Wi-Fi network or threaten other guests’ privacy (by stealing their credit card data or other personal information). They also said that those gadgets can interfere with the hotel’s Wi-Fi, slowing down speeds for other customers.

“If a hotel is powerless to address such activities to ensure the security and reliability of its Wi-Fi network on its premises, both the hotel and its guests would suffer,” Marriott said in its filing.

Most of the 21 responses to Marriott’s request basically boil down to this: The hotel industry simply wants to keep charging people exorbitant rates for Wi-Fi.

“If a customer arrives at a hotel with her own Mi-Fi device and the hotel interferes with the customer’s connection to that personal hotspot, the hotel can effectively force the customer to purchase the hotel’s Wi-Fi services to gain access, even though the customer has already paid her mobile operator for personal hotspot capability,” said Microsoft in a filing to the FCC opposing Marriott’s request.

Google agreed. In its filing the search giant said blocking access to personal Wi-Fi hotspots “would undermine the public interest.”

The wireless industry lobby and other wireless providers have also asked the FCC not to accept Marriott’s request.

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3 comments

  • miles (dave)

    this is ridiculous broadcasting your own wi-fi channel dose not have enough noise to cause other users of the hotels wi-fi to have problems. it is true that you can get enough electromagnetic noise in one area that things will stop working (anyone who runs a busy networking hub machine knows what im talking about. (when we wired my brothers house for a large network the computer we hooked up to the tv had these issues because we had everything from mice to wireless keyboards to other wireless controllers etc. talking to the same usb hub with dongles turns out all this noise in one area makes the area act more like a faraday cage where nothing communicates well. but one personal wi-fi signal per room will not have this impact.

  • bob

    Interfering with communications devices is a crime. And FCC regulations specifically prohibit the use of any device that’s designed to interfere with wireless communications. That’s why Marriott, a huge corporation, has to ask permission to do something that would land me or you in jail.

    I won’t stay in any hotel that pulls stunts like this. My cell phone is my business. And Marriott’s argument that cell phone hotspots interfere with THEIR WiFi is an outright lie. They know it. The FCC knows it.

  • Anon

    Here’s one for you Marriot. I will no longer book at any Marriot Properties and will be canceling our Sunday brunch at the downtown Marriot as well.

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