FCC Fines Hilton and M.C. Dean for Blocking Guests’ Wi-Fi

This week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sent a shot across the bow of the hotel and convention center industry with fines against two companies in connection with the Wi-Fi blocking practice. The Baltimore Convention CenterEUs Wi-Fi provider, M.C. Dean Inc., and Hilton Worldwide Holdings were both penalized as a results of investigations into whether they deliberately cut their guests off from the Internet.

Blocking Wi-Fi for guests appears to be becoming a feature, rather than a bug, of hotel and convention center business. The sector seems to increasingly rely on the business practice of stopping guests from accessing the Internet unless they pay exorbitant fees to connect to the hotel or convention center network.

A Thousand Dollars for Wi-Fi

The FCCEUs Enforcement Bureau investigation found that M.C. Dean blocked the personal mobile EUhotspotsEU of convention visitors and exhibitors who tried to use their own data plans to connect to the Internet rather than paying to use the companyEUs Wi-Fi service. The company, one of the nationEUs largest electrical contracting companies and the exclusive provider of Wi-Fi access at the Baltimore Convention Center, was fined $718,000 as a result of the investigation.

EUConsumers are tired of being taken advantage of by hotels and convention centers that block their personal Wi-Fi connections,EU said Travis LeBlanc, chief of the FCCEUs Enforcement Bureau in a statement. EUThis disturbing practice must come to an end. It is patently unlawful for any company to maliciously block FCC-approved Wi-Fi connections.EU

Although it might sound like a minor inconvenience, the costs can be significant. The FCC found that M.C. Dean forced exhibitors and visitors to pay as much as $1,095 per event to connect to Wi-Fi. The equipment the company used also had a spillover effect, blocking Wi-Fi signals to devices outside the convention center and unconnected to the event....

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