Blocking Wi-Fi hotspots is being taken to task by the Federal Communications Commission. Today the FCC announced a $750,000 fine against Smart City LLC, a telecom company that provides Wi-Fi for select hotels and convention centers. Their standard charge for one day of access is $80, and they operate in cities such as Cincinnati, Orlando, and Phoenix.
Last year in June, a complaint was filed with the commission that said Smart City was using spectrum interference to prevent people at a convention from connecting through personal Wi-Fi networks. This violates the carrier’s legal right to operate. The settlement today includes not just the expensive fine, but also an assurance that Smart City will stop all Wi-Fi blocking operations.
At the beginning of the year, the FCC issued a formal advisory that Wi-Fi blocking cases were a priority, and that they would be pursued aggressively. "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," FCC enforcement chief Travis LeBlanc said in a statement. This advisory came after an October 2014 action that fined Marriott hotels $600,000 for Wi-Fi blocking.
Smart City acknowledged the fine as a necessary compromise, but says they never acted maliciously. The president of the company, Mark Haley, issued a statement where he said the blocking techniques used were standard within conventions and said very few devices were deauthenticated by the system. He continued to say that when Smart City was contacted about the issue in October 2014, they stopped all Wi-Fi blocking.