FCC Fines Smart City $750K for Blocking Wi-Fi Hotspots

Blocking personal Wi-Fi hotspots while charging "exorbitant" fees for online access is "patently unlawful," according to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC). That's why the agency today announced that it has fined a company called Smart City Holdings $750,000 for blocking access to Wi-Fi services at convention centers.

In October, the FCC imposed a fine of $600,000 on the Marriott Hotel Chain for similar Wi-Fi blocking at its Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville. In January, the agency also issued an enforcement advisory warning that anyone intentionally blocking access to Wi-Fi hotspots would be subject to enforcement action.

Founded as a partnership between the Houston Astros and Central Telephone, Smart City Holdings has evolved into a company that provides network services to convention centers, as well as several NFL stadiums in the U.S. A subsidiary, Smart City Telecom, provides exclusive telecommunications services for the Walt Disney World Resort.

Blocking 'Patently Unlawful'

The FCC launched its investigation into Smart City Holdings after receiving a complaint that attendees at several venues where the company offered services could not connect to the Internet using Wi-FI hotspots. The agency found that the company's technology automatically blocked people from accessing their own networks via Wi-Fi hotspots at convention centers in Cincinnati; Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis; Orlando and Phoenix.

The FCC's investigation also concluded that there was no evidence that Smart City was blocking Wi-Fi access due to legitimate network security concerns. The company charged attendees at those venues $80 a day to access its own Wi-Fi service.

"It is unacceptable for any company to charge consumers exorbitant fees to access the Internet while at the same time blocking them from using their own personal Wi-Fi hotspots to access the Internet," said Travis LeBlanc, chief of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau. "All companies who seek to use technologies...

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