FCC: Convention Centers Cannot Block Personal Wi-Fi Devices

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Today, the United States Federal Communications Commission announced a $750,000 fine against Smart City Holdings for blocking Wi-Fi hotspots at convention centers across the country.

According to tech website Gizmodo, Smart City provides telecom services for conventions, meeting centers, and hotels all over the country and charges an $80 fee for a single day of Wi-Fi service. That, in and of itself, is not illegal, but the FCC decided that other corporate actions were: The investigation found that, if exhibitors or visitors to the convention centers did not pay this $80 fee, Smart City would automatically block users from accessing the Internet when they instead attempted to use their personal cellular data plans to establish mobile Wi-Fi networks – or “hotspots” – to connect their Wi-Fi-enabled devices to the Internet.

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“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,” Travis LeBlanc, Chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, said in a statement. “All companies who seek to use technologies that block FCC-approved Wi-Fi connections are on notice that such practices are patently unlawful.”

As part of the settlement, Smart City will cease its Wi-Fi blocking activities and will pay a $750,000 civil penalty.

This is the FCC’s second major enforcement action regarding Wi-Fi blocking. In October 2014, the FCC fined Marriott International, Inc. and Marriott Hotel Services, Inc. $600,000 for similar Wi-Fi blocking activities at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Source: International Meetings Review

 

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