REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Although the Federal Communications Commission has sent a clear message that blocking mobile hot spots is illegal, the decision still creates a set of problems for hoteliers.
The hot spots, which turn the cellular connection used by personal devices like smartphones and tablets into small, self-contained Wi-Fi networks, represent technology adjacent to but completely outside of the control of hotels’ networks.
It’s that lack of control that can be the rub for many, but it’s also something the FCC is willing to put its power behind supporting.
Companies caught blocking the signals of personal hot spots in convention spaces have been on the losing end of costly FCC decisions twice over the past calendar.
If that wasn’t clear enough, the FCC proceeded to underline, circle and highlight its point this August when the FCC hit Smart City Networks, a Las Vegas-based company that provides network engineering and security for convention spaces, with a $750,000 fine for blocking personal hot spots.
While both of those fines related to violations in convention space, attorney Robert Braun, a partner at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell, said there should be no question of whether the prohibition extends to guestrooms—or anywhere else.
“I think it’s pretty clear that their view is you cannot block hot spots,” Braun said. “That’s the bottom line.”
A series of decisions, statements and settlements from the Federal Communications Commission have paved the way for wireless hot spots to become the most widely used technology in public spaces where free Wi-Fi isn’t readily available, including hotels, meeting and convention space. Here’s a snap shot of the steps the FCC has taken to support consumers’ use of hot spots.