Did anyone see this story? The Gaylord Opryland Hotel was jamming Wi-Fi to force the use of their internet services.
Today the Federal Communications Commission's Enforcement Bureau announced they resolved an investigation into whether Marriott intentionally interfered with and disabled Wi-Fi networks, fining the company $600,000. More information and the consent decree can be found here:https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/at...-14-1444A1.pdf
Below is the press release the FCC put out (publicly available info)
"MARRIOTT TO PAY $600,000 TO RESOLVE WIFI-BLOCKING INVESTIGATION
Hotel Operator Admits Employees Improperly Used Wi-Fi Monitoring System to Block Mobile Hotspots;
Agrees to Three-Year Compliance Plan
Washington, D.C. –Marriott International, Inc. and its subsidiary, Marriott Hotel Services, Inc., will pay $600,000 to resolve a Federal Communications Commission investigation into whether Marriott intentionally interfered with and disabled Wi-Fi networks established by consumers in the conference facilities of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee, in violation of Section 333 of the Communications Act. The FCC Enforcement Bureau’s investigation revealed that Marriott employees had used containment features of a Wi-Fi monitoring system at the Gaylord Opryland to prevent individuals from connecting to the Internet via their own personal Wi-Fi networks, while at the same time charging consumers, small businesses, and exhibitors as much as $1,000 per device to access Marriott’s Wi-Fi network.
“Consumers who purchase cellular data plans should be able to use them without fear that their personal Internet connection will be blocked by their hotel or conference center,” said Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc. “It is unacceptable for any hotel to intentionally disable personal hotspots while also charging consumers and small businesses high fees to use the hotel’s own Wi-Fi network. This practice puts consumers in the untenable position of either paying twice for the same service or forgoing Internet access altogether,” he added.
In March 2013, the Commission received a complaint from an individual who had attended a function at the Gaylord Opryland. The complainant alleged that the Gaylord Opryland was “jamming mobile hotspots so that you can’t use them in the convention space.” After conducting an investigation, the Enforcement Bureau found that employees of Marriott, which has managed the day-to-day operations of the Gaylord Opryland since 2012, had used features of a Wi-Fi monitoring system at the Gaylord Opryland to contain and/or de-authenticate guest-created Wi-Fi hotspot access points in the conference facilities. In some cases, employees sent de-authentication packets to the targeted access points, which would dissociate consumers’ devices from their own Wi-Fi hotspot access points and, thus, disrupt consumers’ current Wi-Fi transmissions and prevent future transmissions. At the same time that these employees engaged in these practices, Marriott charged conference exhibitors and other attendees anywhere from $250 to $1,000 per device to use the Gaylord Wi-Fi service in the conference facilities.
Under the terms of the Consent Decree the FCC announced today, Marriott must cease the unlawful use of Wi-Fi blocking technology and take significant steps to improve how it monitors and uses its Wi-Fi technology at the Gaylord Opryland. Marriott must institute a compliance plan and file compliance and usage reports with the Bureau every three months for three years, including information documenting any use of access point containment features at any U.S. property that Marriott manages or owns. To resolve this matter, Marriott will pay a civil penalty of $600,000."
However, there's a bit of a disconnect between
Hotel Operator Admits Employees Improperly Used Wi-Fi Monitoring System to Block Mobile Hotspots;
Agrees to Three-Year Compliance Plan
and Marriott's statement below (above improperly used wi-fi monitoring system to block mobile hotspots; below saying they think it's legal)
Marriott's statement from the News section of its website:
"Marriott has a strong interest in ensuring that when our guests use our Wi-Fi service, they will be protected from rogue wireless hotspots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber-attacks and identity theft. Like many other institutions and companies in a wide variety of industries, including hospitals and universities, the Gaylord Opryland protected its Wi-Fi network by using FCC-authorized equipment provided by well-known, reputable manufacturers. We believe that the Gaylord Opryland's actions were lawful. We will continue to encourage the FCC to pursue a rulemaking in order to eliminate the ongoing confusion resulting from today's action and to assess the merits of its underlying policy."
Let's look at it from another direction. Keeping in mind that they are talking about "hotspots". Not internet access on your phone, for example. But a hotspot that other people can log in to.
So let's say I go set up a hot spot called Marrriott (note the 3 "r"s) and you log into it and I steal your passwords, ID, whatever. You find out. It happened at Marriott. You sue Marriott. (Maybe not you, but 90% of the folks out there would sue being as suing people is one of America's favorite pasttimes).
Does Marriott not have the right to protect itself from these rogue hotspots?
Did the Gaylord reveal to it's guests, upon checkin, that they were "protecting" them from using their own internet connections? If they did, I'd halfway accept Marriott's wacky legal mumbo-jumbo. Of course, if they didn't tell their guests, then I think it was nothing more than a greedy money grab. When individual businesses or large corporations gouge customers and then act like they are doing them a favor, they lose customers on principle and may never get them back.
I'd like to see a scorecard for each major corporation that shows each action they take and whether it was primarily intended to 1. raise revenues/cut costs or to 2. improve customer service/satisfaction. Don't think most things I see these days by Marriott or many other organizations that would fall into #2
Marriott's definitely taking a hit in the news/online. No one is buying the tone deaf it's legal argument when it obviously was illegal, Marriott agreed to pay a fine & be monitored for 3 years. What hurts Marriott is that people aren't just viewing it as one rogue property but assuming that Marriott is doing it elsewhere (and for all we know they are), with some saying they won't stay in Marriotts. They probably should have done the we're sorry, over zealous employees, won't happen again, etc, etc.
I saw it. I am disappointed but not surprised.
The hospitality business is quite an interesting business to be in, but it is very important to have a good name.
Coming up with an absurd rebuttal in my opinion did more damage to Marriott's reputation than did the original offense.
They have some ethics issues to address.
As for that Gaylord division or whatever you want to call it, they should just get rid of the whole thing. Not even Motel 6 is on my blacklist, but Gaylord is.
Here's another article on the fine: FCC fines Marriott $600,000 for jamming hotel Wi-Fi - Boing Boing
jamesdean,,jd, you can go to your original post and edit to fix spelling errors and such...just an fyi.
really sad; glad someone stepped up to the plate; $600K doesn't mean much to a multi million dollar company but the bad publicity sure does
Am I the only one who doesn't see remorse on Marriott's part?
I didn't see an apology or anything at all like that.
All I saw was them saying they wanted the laws changed and making up some story which most find difficult to believe.
Is there agreement that there should be an apology?
I think what they did is very wrong and considering they talk on their website a lot about morals and integrity, someone should take responsibility for this.
Perhaps one of the moderators could let us know if there is an ethics hotline at Marriott, and if not, why there isn't one....I don't see one on their website.
Any company which has policies like this should have a "whistle blower" line where people can bring to their attention possible ethics violations.
Do as you say.
For anyone thinking, they'll take their business elsewhere and smack Marriott, let's keep in mind, that it's Google and Microsoft vs. Marriott and The American Hospitality and Lodging Association. Once again the major chains are moving lockstep, and no doubt if they lose, they'll all agree to follow the law; if they win, they'll probably all charge to the capability they can get away with, whether we like it or not.
I have read your postings now for a couple of years and as if to live up to your name, they are concise and on point, especially when it comes to all things internet and wi-fi. I am in complete agreement with the majority of views in this thread regarding the lodgers battling the consumer.
If we ever needed an indication of the way things are in the lodging industry and how the cards are stacked, it's this issue. The overflow of demand allows most all hotel operators (who increased stock value this year alone over 20%, Marriott is up 60%) to do as they please and yet still have high, record setting occupancy.
Hoteliers have currently arrived at a stage where it doesn't really matter to them what the names of the customers are (as a matter of fact, newer guests are probably higher margins than us long time loyalists) as long as they have the customers (and they do).
We've already read about 'backlash' in this forum regarding loyalty program benefits and we observe the chains continuing setting RevPar and stock price records. Even when there is something resembling competitive forces, such as Hyatt offering free wi-fi, vs. Marriott offering free wi-fi only if you join the loyalty program, there seems to be no material impact.
For the near term, I don't expect the market economics to change, so forums like this are vital, not necessarily for initiating change, but more for keeping us all informed of what new profit margin optimization tactic is coming our way next.
A minor caveat to your assessment of the current health of the lodging industry, and its likely implications for clients.
With growth at around 5% pa it is not hard to understand why the US lodging industry finds itself in such a relatively favourable situation, but - with the likely exceptions of London, Paris, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo - I doubt whether the same can be said of Europe and Asia. There are two reasons for this:
1. Particularly in Europe, economic recovery has not reached the same level. In many cases, austerity remains a more accurate description.
2. The Marriott brand - though strengthening - does not carry anything like the weight it does in the USA.
It is of course true that, as over 80% of Marriott's market is in the US, my caveat does not carry a great commercial significance; but it might just be worth noting by those planning overseas vacations. For example, I have received full benefits in each of my last ten stays in German and French hotels. I should add, however, that the same has not been true of stays in Spain!
Since this was an October thread, I was a little more comfortable veering off course, Wi-fi jammer opponents, please continue commenting, because the two thoughts of what hoteliers will do and how we must survive them, are somewhat intertwined.
As hoteliers grow more and more sophisticated at targeting their offers, it's vital for consumers to 'know what's out there'. That's where Insiders comes in, playing a potentially huge role in providing us worthwhile Marriott and competitive data as well as alternative strategies like VRBO, TravelZoo, and yes, I'm going to say it, Airbnb (which Marriott to their credit, continues to engage in discussions).
Well it appears consumers may have actually struck a nerve. Here's a worthwhile Marriott response;
I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt until shown otherwise.
Thank you for posting this reference.
Since the mentioned threats would be exactly the same in a wireless network that's located in hotel lobbies, rooms, and convention floors, it makes little sense to be obsessed with "protecting" people only on the convention floors and not these other places.
I remain unconvinced that this is anything other than a revenue grabbing moved disguised as a concern for security.
Let's look at this from a money perspective:
In the hotel lobby: They provide internet at no cost anyways, so revenue loss is not a concern.
In the hotel room: Many people get the internet as a benefit and revenue loss is not a big concern.
Convention Area: Options to get connectivity are limited. No free wi fi provided (as in lobby). No one entitled to free internet (not elites etc.).
Convention vendors are supposed to pay for connectivity at a huge cost per day.
Convention visitors only get access if the host of the convention pays a lot for attendee access.
The "loophole" to all this is personal mobile hot spots.
Why else would the concern be only for the security at convention space and not in lobbies/rooms?
I encourage everyone to read through their explanation and draw their own conclusion.
Maybe I'm wrong....but am I?
And this difference is .......
Access to wifi in the rooms and the lobby is restricted to guests. The hotel is getting revenue from the guests. Conference rooms are usually populated primarily by people who aren't guests. Therefore this is a module to get revenue from those people.
One correction. In the JWM where I have held conventions (Bangkok) wifi in the convention hall is free to elites *who are guests in the hotel*.
The security concern is that whatever way you're getting to the hotel's wifi, it's still the hotel's wifi. But if I use data access on my phone and set up a mobile hotspot that other can use, it's not going through hotel wifi. If someone happens, say your password gets stolen and someone hits your bank account, who are you going to sue? The hotel of course. Deep pockets.
john_thai, you're a funny guy.
Of course they are getting revenue generally from the conference attendees, they usually pay to go to the conference.
I guess it is different there. In any conference area I've been to in North America, the whole setup in the conference area is separate and hotel elites don't have access. Generally the conference has bought internet access for all attendees and we use that.
Anyone else have perspective on this?
A few things.
Access to the wifi in the lobby is not limited to guests. Anyone can walk into a Marriott lobby & use the public wifi. I've met plenty of people in the hotel lobby who aren't guests.
I'm not sure where you're getting conference attendees aren't guests. Sure there are some locals who attend conferences/conventions, but there are a LOT who attend conferences/conventions who are hotel guests. I'm one of them & so are several hundred or thousand of my closest friends (er, attendees).
Marriott's making $$ from conference attendees who stay, eat & drink at the properties. Marriott's making $$ from the meeting rooms, food & beverages, a/v they're charging the conference/convention organizers - Marriott's making $$ from the internet fee (which is quite hefty) to provide i-net in the conference/convention rooms.
Marriott isn't worried about the rogue hotspots people use in the lobby or in their rooms. This is a pure money grab disguised as security.
I know I will bring the wrath of the forum down on me, but I think it's completely appropriate to block other wifi signals inside their hotel. IIRC this was about a convention or meeting room. They are offering a service for sale. You don't expect a restaurant to allow you to bring your own steak, do you?
I think you are entitled to have your own point of view and should be encouraged to express it.
I'm not sure how many will agree with your opinion, but surely there should be no wrath for saying your piece.
I don't expect the restaurant to allow me to bring my own steak, but if the restaurant also happens to sell clothes, I wouldn't expect them to insist I wore their clothing to the dinner.