The American Hotel & Lodging Association and Marriott International bowed to the inevitable and officially withdrew their joint FCC petition seeking clarification on whether and how they would be able to block attendees’ Wi-Fi for efficiency and security purposes at meetings and events on their properties.
AH&LA, which represents U.S. hotel owners, chains, franchisees, independent properties and management companies, stated it had petitioned the FCC “to clear up the significant confusion that exists around what tools businesses can use to legally protect guests’ vital personal data. We did not seek to block personal Wi-Fi,” but conceded in the face of vociferous opposition from the FCC Enforcement Division that “it is clear that the petition is not achieving this goal …”
In addition to the FCC itself, Marriott guests and others responded to the petition to the FCC with almost-unanimous opposition to any attempt by hotels to block guests or meetings’ attendees access to their personal hotspots.
The lodging association stated it will “work in other ways to resolve this issue of consumer safety and cybersecurity. Consequently, today we are formally withdrawing our petition to the FCC.”
Marriott Bows Out
Marriott International, which had been fined $600,000 by the FCC in 2014 for blocking attendees’ personal Wi-Fi at a conference in Nashville in 2013, issued a statement indicating it is withdrawing the petition, as well.
“Marriott International has decided to withdraw as a party to the petition seeking direction from the FCC on legal Wi-Fi security measures,” said Bruce Hoffmeister, global chief information officer, Marriott International. “Our intent was to protect personal data in Wi-Fi hotspots for large conferences.
“We thought we were doing the right thing asking the FCC to provide guidance, but the FCC has indicated its opposition. As we have said, we will not block Wi-Fi signals at any hotel we manage for any reason.”
Marriott also noted that as of January 15 it began offering free standard Wi-Fi to Marriott Rewards members who book directly with the hotel. This program had been announced in October 2014 and wasn’t tied to the furor over the personal Wi-Fi jamming issue.
The Marriott offer is good for bookings on Marriott.com, Marriott’s mobile app, 1-800-MARRIOTT, or through a Marriott property.
Hilton Worldwide, too, had filed comments with the FCC backing the petition.