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Google, Wireless Industry Not Down With Marriott’s Wi-Fi Blocking Plan

History isn’t on the hotel industry’s side as it tries to convince regulators to let it block personal hotspots.

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Microsoft and Google don’t agree on much, but they’ve presented a united front against the hotel industry, which is trying to convince government regulators to give them the option of blocking guests from using personal Wi-Fi hotspots.

The tech companies recently joined the wireless industry’s lobbying group and a handful of other parties in opposing the hotel industry’s petition, which seeks the Federal Communications Commission’s permission to block personal Wi-Fi networks on their properties.

This summer, the American Hospitality & Lodging Association and Marriott International asked the FCC to declare that a hotel operator can use equipment to manage its network even if it “may result in ‘interference with or cause interference’ to a [wireless device] being used by a guest on the operator’s property.”

“Wi-Fi network operators should be able to manage their networks in order to provide a secure and reliable Wi-Fi service to guests on their premises,” they argued.

At the time, Marriott was under investigation for a March 2013 consumer complaint for allegedly blocking guests from using their smartphones as personal Wi-Fi hotspots in the convention space at Opryland.

The Marriott-owned Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center tech staff was using a monitoring system that de-authenticated guests’ personal Wi-Fi hot spots. Meanwhile, the hotel was charging exhibitors and attendees anywhere from $250 to $1,000 for Wi-Fi service, the FCC said.

In October, Marriott settled an FCC complaint about the practice for $600,000 but argued that it hadn’t broken the law and was using technology to protect guests from “rogue wireless hotspots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber attacks and identity theft.”

A month later, the agency asked for comments on Marriott’s earlier request to find such Wi-Fi blocking legal.

“Hilton could not meet its guests’ expectations were it unable to manage its Wi-Fi networks, including taking steps to protect against unauthorized access points that pose a threat to the reliability and security of that network,” Hilton Worldwide wrote in support of Marriott and the hotel industry’s request made public Monday.

Opponents of the proposal basically argued in filings late Monday that the hotel industry is just trying to keep guests and exhibitors dependent on pricy hotel wireless networks. They suggested hotels have other options for protecting Wi-Fi networks than jamming personal hotspots.

“Allowing hotels or other property owners deliberately to block third parties’ access to Wi-Fi signals would undermine the public interest benefits of unlicensed use,” Google said in a filing opposing the hotel association’s request. Microsoft also asked the agency to kill the request.

The wireless industry’s trade group, CTIA, noted that wireless phones or other gadgets that use Wi-Fi have “equal rights to use unlicensed spectrum; no single entity may intentionally prevent others from using that spectrum.”

“The public is best served by increasing the potential for these networks, not allowing an individual Wi-Fi network manager unilaterally to shut them down,” CTIA told the FCC.

Wi-Fi networks run on unlicensed airwaves, which means that anyone can use them. The FCC does enforce some limits on devices that use unlicensed airwaves, mostly to decrease interference, such as limiting power levels.

This isn’t the first time an issue like this has come up.

A decade ago, a dispute between competing airlines at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport also drew federal scrutiny after airport officials tried to step in and referee, saying that they should have control over how Wi-Fi networks operate on airport grounds.

Boston’s Logan International Airport attempted something similar two years later, when it tried to ban airlines from offering free Wi-Fi service in airport lounges. But FCC officials denied the airport’s request, saying federal rules prohibit such behavior.

This article originally appeared on

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