FCC Fines Hilton $25K for Allegedly Obstructing Wi-Fi Blocking Investigation
PHOTO: An investigation into Wi-Fi blocking at the Hilton Anaheim, pictured, has triggered a company-wide $25K fine. (Photo courtesy of Hilton Worldwide)
Hilton Worldwide is facing a $25,000 fine and pressure to respond to a letter of inquiry from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission for allegedly failing to cooperate in an investigation into whether the hotel chain blocked guests from accessing their personal Wi-Fi hotspots in an effort to sell its own Internet service offerings.
"In November 2014, the Enforcement Bureau (Bureau) began a Wi-Fi blocking investigation of Hilton Worldwide Holdings, Inc. (Hilton or Company) after receiving a complaint that the Hilton hotel in Anaheim, California blocked visitors’ personal Wi-Fi hotspots unless they paid the hotel a $500 fee for Hilton’s Wi-Fi. The Commission has also received complaints about other Hilton properties," the FCC stated in a notice released Monday.
"In light of these factors and Hilton’s ability to pay, we propose a $25,000 penalty and order Hilton to provide a complete response to the LOI (letter of inquiry) within thirty days and a complete response to a limited set of inquiries within fifteen days," the commission added.
The FCC has banned the use of Wi-Fi jammers and has levied stiff fines against violators in the recent past.
Last year, Marriott International was fined $600,000 for blocking personal Wi-Fi access at its Nashville property. And earlier this week, the FCC announced plans to fine electrical contractor M.C. Dean $718,000 for blocking personal Wi-Fi at the Baltimore Convention Center and charging as much as $1,095 per event for Internet access.
"Consumers are tired of being taken advantage of by hotels and convention centers that block their personal Wi-Fi connections," FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc said in a statement. "This disturbing practice must come to an end. It is patently unlawful for any company to maliciously block FCC-approved Wi-Fi connections."
While the financial incentive for hotels and other companies to jam personal Wi-Fi access is obvious, Hilton denies any wrongdoing and claims that it's cooperated with the FCC all along.
"We strongly disagree with the decision by the FCC Enforcement Bureau. Hilton supports open access to private Wi-Fi networks for our customers through their personal devices, while at the same time protecting their personal information," said Hilton Worldwide in a statement to HotelsMag.com. "We have a policy in place that states our commitment to secure open access and prohibits hotels from blocking Wi-Fi, and it is repeatedly communicated to all properties."
"Throughout this inquiry, we have cooperated with the FCC, providing extensive background and details in a timely and efficient manner. We believe that the FCC has no basis for vastly expanding the initial inquiry based on a single complaint at a single Hilton hotel," the chain concluded.
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