by Michael J. Shapiro | January 28, 2015
The Federal Communications Commission issued a stern warning Tuesday against Wi-Fi blocking, noting that anyone who intentionally interferes with Wi-Fi hot spots is subject to enforcement action. The enforcement advisory is the FCC's latest response to Marriott's petition for clarification on the policy, after the lodging giant was fined $600,000 last fall for jamming personal Wi-Fi hot spots in meeting spaces at its Gaylord Opryland hotel in Nashville. "In the 21st century, Wi-Fi represents an essential on-ramp to the Internet," begins the FCC's statement. "Willful or malicious interference with Wi-Fi hot spots is illegal. Wi-Fi blocking violates Section 333 of the Communications Act." The FCC has noted a disturbing trend, according to the advisory, of hotels and other businesses blocking consumers from using their own personal Wi-Fi hot spots on their premises. "The bureau is protecting consumers by aggressively investigating and acting against such unlawful intentional interference," reads the advisory. The FCC currently is investigating several complaints against other companies that surfaced after the Marriott settlement was publicized.

As for Marriott's petition for clarification, the FCC clearly spelled out its position: "No hotel, convention center or other commercial establishment or the network operator providing services at such establishments may intentionally block or disrupt personal Wi-Fi hot spots on such premises, including as part of an effort to force consumers to purchase access to the property owner's Wi-Fi network. Such action is illegal, and violations could lead to the assessment of substantial monetary penalties." What's more, the advisory reads, the operation, marketing or sale of any type of jamming equipment is prohibited by federal law. Anyone who suspects his or her personal hot spot has been blocked can report the situation to the FCC here.