By J. Sharpe Smith
November 24, 2015 — After receiving several complaints about Hilton Hotels & Resorts, the Enforcement Bureau sprang into action in November 2014 and issued a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) into the hotel’s Wi-Fi management practices. A year later, after Hilton ignored the LOI, the bureau fined the hotel $25,000 and put it on notice that if it didn’t respond to the LOI it would face an additional fine.
The key complaint alleges that the Hilton hotel in Anaheim, California, blocked a visitors’ personal Wi-Fi hotspot and then demanded a $500 to hook up with the hotel’s Wi-Fi network.
“Because Hilton’s tactics and refusal to respond raise significant questions regarding the company’s potential interference with Wi-Fi communications, the Bureau must now expend additional scarce resources to further investigate and resolve this matter,” the Bureau wrote. “We emphasize that if Hilton fails to submit a complete response, it may be subject to further enforcement action, including increasingly substantial monetary penalties.”
The FCC has already shown that jamming RF signals can come with a hefty price tag. Back in October 2014 Marriott International was fined $600,000 disabling Wi-Fi networks at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Now, after being ignored for a year, the Enforcement Bureau is not likely to show leniency to Hilton.
A more recent reminder of the size of FCC fines for jamming Wi-Fi occurred earlier this month. On November 2, the FCC levied a fine of $718,000 against M.C. Dean, an electrical contracting company, for allegedly interfering with the use Wi-Fi hot spots at the Baltimore Convention Center.
“Wi-Fi blocking threatens to stymie wireless innovation and the availability of Wi-Fi as an important Internet access technology,” the FCC wrote. “Our action today advances the Commission’s longstanding goal of ensuring that all authorized communications – including Wi-Fi transmissions – occur free of malicious disruptions.”