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20 Oct

Marriott Hotel fined for blocking personnel Wi-Fi Hotspots

Wi-Fi providers at conferences need to work more closely with event planners to consider delegates’ needs – and the realistic cost of connections – in the wake of Marriott’s fine in the US for jamming attendees’ Wi-Fi at a Nashville hotel.

Jeremy Rollinson, chief technology officer and founder of Forge Special Projects, which provides technical infrastructure at events from Wi-Fi hotspots to charging points, told more should be done to reduce “the big gap between the internal technical teams at the venue and the organiser”.

Last week, Marriott International was fined US$600,000 (£370k) for jamming exhibitors’ and delegates’ own Wi-Fi connections at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.

The hotel group was fined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for taking overzealous steps to protect its network by blocking personal Wi-Fi hotspots and forcing them to use its system. The FCC ruled that the Wi-Fi blocking by the hotel, which charged exhibitors between US$250 (£155) and US$1,000 (£621) to connect to its own network, violated the US Communications Act.

Rollinson admitted the cost of bespoke Wi-Fi at conferences and exhibitions could be high, but said both buyers and suppliers needed to improve communication.

“Venues need to be more proactive with organisers and exhibitors about managing the air space in the room,” he said. “Organisers have got so many things to do, they know Wi-Fi is important but getting it right costs money.”

Marriott International said the blocking – which isn’t illegal – wasn’t aimed at charging guests extra for internet access, but about protecting its network.

“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,” the company said in a statement.

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