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Marriott Says It Only Wants to Block Personal Wi-Fi in Conference, Meeting Spaces

Hotel chain clarifies its request as complaints about its Wi-Fi blocking idea grow.

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Hotel chain Marriott International tried to stem the flow of complaints about its personal Wi-Fi blocking plan Tuesday, saying that it doesn’t want to limit guests’ ability to get online in their rooms but would like to block networks in its conference or meeting spaces.

The company issued a statement Tuesday trying to clarify its request to the Federal Communications Commission for permission to block Wi-Fi devices on its property. In October, the agency fined Marriott $600,000 for using blocking technology to knock out Wi-Fi devices at its Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center space.

Marriott customers and others have been complaining on Twitter about the Wi-Fi blocking proposal since it started getting attention earlier this month after the FCC began accepting comments about the idea. Since Wi-Fi networks operate on unlicensed airwaves, generally anyone can use them, and parties aren’t allowed to block access.

“It has never been nor will it ever be Marriott’s policy to limit our guests’ ability to access the Internet by all available means, including through the use of personal Mi-Fi and/or Wi-Fi devices,” Marriott said in a statement. Instead, the hotel chain said it wants the leeway to block networks which might “pose a security threat to meeting or conference attendees or cause interference to the conference guest wireless network,” the company said.

Critics of the plan argue that Marriott and the hotel industry are worried a lot less about malicious hacking than their ability to charge convention exhibitors big bucks for Internet access. As Re/code reported last week , Google and Microsoft are among the parties complaining about Marriott’s personal Wi-Fi blocking proposal.

The FCC is expected to make a decision about Marriott and the hotel industry’s proposal in the first half of 2015.

Marriott’s full statement is below:

We understand there have been concerns regarding our position on the FCC petition filing, perhaps due to a lack of clarity about the issue. To set the record straight it has never been nor will it ever be Marriott’s policy to limit our guests’ ability to access the Internet by all available means, including through the use of personal Mi-Fi and/or Wi-Fi devices. As a matter of fact, we invite and encourage our guests to use these Internet connectivity devices in our hotels. To be clear, this matter does not involve in any way Wi-Fi access in hotel guestrooms or lobby spaces.

The question at hand is what measures a network operator can take to detect and contain rogue and imposter Wi-Fi hotspots used in our meeting and conference spaces that pose a security threat to meeting or conference attendees or cause interference to the conference guest wireless network.

In light of the increased use of wireless technology to launch cyber-attacks and purposefully disrupt hotel networks, Marriott along with the American Hotel & Lodging Association on behalf of the entire hotel industry is seeking clarity from the FCC regarding what lawful measures a network operator can take to prevent such attacks from occurring. We feel this is extremely important as we are increasingly being asked what measures we take to protect our conference and meeting guests and the conference groups that are using Wi-Fi technology in our hotels.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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