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Computer Forensics Expert:
Marriott & FCC Go Toe to Toe, Marriott Loses

Digital Evidence Expert / Data Forensics Articles

Consumers who supply their own Wi-Fi at hotels and convention centers recently won a significant victory. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined Marriott $600,000 for jamming consumer owned Wi-Fi Hotspots* in their Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

Marriott Logo - Computer Systems Security Expert

Computer Forensics Expert - Cyber Security

The FCC reported that Marriott employees disabled Wi-Fi networks brought in by hotel guests to its conference facilities. The hotel then extorted between $250 and $1,000 per computing device for access to the hotel supplied Internet.

The hotel was violating Section 333 of the Communications Act which states: “No person shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications of any station licensed or authorized by or under this chapter or operated by the United States Government.” Wi-Fi is a radio band which is unlicensed and open to public use.

Marriott, based in Bethesda, MD, attempted to justify their position stating: "Marriott has a strong interest in ensuring that when our guests use our Wi-Fi service, they will be protected from rogue wireless hotspots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber-attacks and identity theft."

In a statement released by Marriott on December 30th, 2014, the corporation said that it didn’t intend to block Internet access in guest rooms, only in conference rooms and meeting spaces. The company said it believes Wi-Fi quality and security are more important in these areas. This position makes no sense. Internet quality of service and security are important everywhere and Marriott would have to block the use of hotspots everywhere in its properties if it truly believed this statement.

Evidence Solutions, Inc. hopes the FCC will continue to fight for consumer’s rights to use their own devices to access the Internet without interference by hotels, conference centers, convention centers, or anywhere else for that matter. If the jamming were to become allowed in conference areas, then soon it would be allowed in hotel guest rooms as well.

Hotel guests and travelers are savvier today than they ever have been. Many choose to travel with their own Internet Hotspot to not only avoid the outrageous fees associated with hotel Internet access, but also to be more secure by using their own devices configured with their own security settings.

Hotels have been outmaneuvered by the progress of technology. Hotels used to be in a position where they could charge for Internet access because hardly anyone carried Internet access with them.

Hoteliers, especially the luxury hotels, should now include Internet access as a standard part of their base hotel fees. Economy hotels have figured this out. Most offer Internet access to their guests for free.

Note: Consumers should certainly be aware, however, that free access to Hotel Internet comes with risks.

The FCC is serious about Wi-Fi & Cell Phone Jamming:

"The Enforcement Bureau has seen a disturbing trend in which hotels and other commercial establishments block wireless consumers from using their own personal Wi-Fi hot spots on the commercial establishment’s premises,” the FCC wrote. "As a result, the Bureau is protecting consumers by aggressively investigating and acting against such unlawful intentional interference.”

The FCC stated: "No hotel, convention center, or other commercial establishment or the network operator providing services at such establishments may intentionally block or disrupt personal Wi-Fi hot spots on such premises, including as part of an effort to force consumers to purchase access to the property owner’s Wi-Fi network. Such action is illegal and violations could lead to the assessment of substantial monetary penalties.” The FCC is the authority that regulates the airwaves.

The FCC has setup a “Jammer Tip Line” which can be reached at: 1-855-55NOJAM, along with a website where consumers can report jamming: www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/jammer-enforcement .

The Jammer Tip Webpage states: “Federal law prohibits the operation, marketing, or sale of any type of jamming equipment, including devices that interfere with cellular and Personal Communication Services (PCS), police radar, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and wireless networking services (Wi-Fi).”

* Wi-Fi Hotspots are small devices that connect to Cell Phone Carrier networks to provide local Internet access via Wi-Fi. Some cellular phones may also be used as Hotspots.


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By Scott Greene

Evidence Solutions, Inc.

Complex Electronic Evidence in PLAIN English.

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