by Michael J. Shapiro | February 04, 2015
Marriott International has withdrawn as a party to the petition filed with the Federal Communications Commission seeking clarification and further direction on legal Wi-Fi security measures. Marriott executives had thought the initiative, wrote CEO Arne Sorenson on his blog, was the right thing to do, but added: "However, in the face of disagreement from both regulators and our customers, we see that the effort was doomed." Much of the public backlash, wrote Sorenson, was due to a misunderstanding of Marriott's intentions. "We wanted to protect the security of Wi-Fi use for conferences at our hotels," he noted. "It had nothing to do with individual guest use of Wi-Fi or personal Wi-Fi hotspots." 

In the blog, Sorenson claimed that the device being used by the staff at the Gaylord Opryland was FCC-approved and was thought to enhance both cyber security and Wi-Fi performance for conference attendees. (The property was acquired by Marriott in 2012.) "The FCC disagreed and fined us, after we had taken over the hotel," wrote Sorenson. Marriott, along with the American Hotel & Lodging Association, then filed the petition, "because we thought everyone -- our business, our industry and our customers -- would benefit from clear rules on how to ensure secure Wi-Fi. The FCC disagreed again. Our customers weren't happy with us either. Many thought our actions smacked of greed; that we were looking for a way to force customers to buy access to Wi-Fi in our hotels. Denying this and pointing out that individual guests could easily get free Wi-Fi didn't help much." Due to the misunderstanding and negative reaction, Marriott concluded that the company's approach was the wrong one. According to Sorenson: "We have heard our customers loud and clear. They want unfettered Wi-Fi access."