Marriott: We Stick It To You For Your Own Good!

On Friday, Scott Mayerowitz reported on Marriott’s big settlement with the FCC over blocking guests use of their own wifi.

The Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center wants its exhibitors to pay $250 to $1000 each to the hotel’s wifi. So they didn’t want folks to be able to bring their own, and they used equipment to jam the signal.

It’s one thing to provide a service, a convenience, even at a high price. It’s another thing to have folks find themselves in the exhibit hall and prevent them from using a service they had prepared to bring themselves in order to extort money from them.

If the hotel had a policy clearly on its website, or in its meetings and events contracts that stated only hotel wifi signals could be used (and requiring meeting hosts to inform participants in advance), it would still be a pretty nasty thing to do but I could accept it.

Instead, Marriott offered the excuse that they were just trying to protect people from Really Bad Things.

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. Like many other institutions and companies in a wide variety of industries, including hospitals and universities, the Gaylord Opryland protected its Wi-Fi network by using FCC-authorized equipment provided by well-known, reputable manufacturers. We believe that the Gaylord Opryland’s actions were lawful. We will continue to encourage the FCC to pursue a rulemaking in order to eliminate the ongoing confusion resulting from today’s action and to assess the merits of its underlying policy.

We want people to use our wifi because it’s safe, and we block all other signals so no one longs onto an unscrupulous network by accident. How kind of them.

Creative, though!

I’m tempted to wonder whether Marriott Rewards ‘protects’ elite members from complimentary breakfast at Courtyard properties, and from being able to confirm upgrades to suites. Feel free to speculate why a lack of benefits could be for our own good in the comments.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Reminds of the awful “in an abundance of caution” (used to justify every stupid, useless, over-reaction security resolution).

  2. I think they do have a point here. Although the consequence of not able to use my own wifi is ridiculous, it’s true that hackers can set up bogus wifi hotspot to lure other people’s info.

    Does the statement mean Marriott will appeal, or it’s just a way of speaking that they “encourage the FCC to pursue a rulemaking”?

  3. They violated Section 333 or the Communications Act. There is nothing to appeal. This was an administrative determination and the company entered into an agreement not to do it again and to set up a monitoring program.

  4. Gary,

    I usually find your analysis pretty insightful, however as many of us grimace when we read common reports in the media about things we know well (ie: miles and points), I think your reaction to Marriott’s statement is a bit unreasonable.

    Granted, we don’t know the motivation behind blocking the “rogue” wireless signals, but as someone who works in this area professionally, I would suspect there is a lot of truth behind Marriott’s statement. Most large campus wireless management systems include this functionality for the very reasons Marriott mentions.

    You may be surprised how often these rogue devices cause interference to legitimate users of wireless service. In a campus environment, it is very common to troubleshoot a client problem and find the issue is related to someone running their own wireless network/device.

    Admittedly, a low powered mifi device is probably not going to cause interference. However, rebroadcasting a signal strong enough to be used by multiple visitors at a conference could very likely interfere with the hotel’s wifi network if it is not managed in conjunction with the hotel’s own wifi system.

    Again, we don’t know the intent here, but I do suspect it is not as sinister as it is playing out in the media. The hotel does have an obligation to make it’s wifi both safe and reliable and it sounds like the techniques it may have used are similar to those we use in the industry in many campus wifi deployments.

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