In my time, I’ve had to deal with hotel Wi-Fi services. It doesn’t feel any better putting through a charge for Wi-Fi through expenses when the service is slow, unreliable and only available in one corner of my room, the bar or restaurant. Many times, I’ll simply tether my Chromebook or tablet with my smartphone because of mobile network is far quicker than the internet connection available from the hotel. But it seems that I’m threatening the hotel’s customers. In a recent petition to the FCC, the Marriott group said that mobile hotspots may be used to “launch an attack against [a hotel] operator’s network or threaten its guests’ privacy” by gaining access to credit card numbers or other personal data, the hotel group said in its petition. It also claimed that operating multiple external Wi-Fi hotspots in a meeting room or convention center can hurt the performance of a hotel’s Wi-Fi network.
Google, Microsoft and US carrier lobbying group, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association or CTIA, are opposing a hotel industry petition asking the FCC to let them block guests’ hotspots while they’re on the premises. Their argument is that hospitality business is trying to both make customers pay for expensive WiFi and to effectively take control of unlicensed wireless frequencies. Everyone has “equal rights” to use those airwaves, the carriers say. The hoteliers are using FCC-approved equipment to cut through interference and intruders, by removing the ability to connect to your tethered hotspot. They’re jamming one part of your tethering hotspot. And it’s hard to see this argument going in favour of the hotels given that in October, Marriott settled a complaint with the FCC for $600,000 that they deliberately prevented users from connecting to their own private Wi-Fi network.
It’s hard to think of the hotel industry’s claims as anything other than a means of directing users to their own internal Wi-Fi networks, charging them a fee whilst accusing me of stalking their guests. To say nothing of the design of some breakfast rooms where hungover guests can be overheard talking about sensitive company business. One thing is for certain: if I’m at a hotel that blocks my Wi-Fi hotspot, I’ll explain to the management that I’m taking my business elsewhere.