NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Don’t assume it is just a bad cellular signal when you are in a hotel or a convention center and you cannot create a personal hotspot on your phone. Something a lot more sinister may be at work. That is highlighted in a recent Federal Communications Commission fine levied against a hotel and convention center WiFi provider for blocking guest access to their BYO WiFi in order to force them to pay high rates for the property’s WiFi.
That is the takeaway of the FCC’s recent $750,000 consent decree with Smart City Holdings. Per the FCC, “Smart City, an Internet and telecommunications provider for conventions, meeting centers, and hotels, had been blocking personal mobile ‘hotspots’ that were being used by convention visitors and exhibitors who used their own data plans rather than paying Smart City substantial fees to use the company’s Wi-Fi service.”
Smart City, per the FCC, nicked “exhibitors and visitors” $80 a day for WiFi access.
That blocking of BYO hostpots is flatly wrong - and against the law. “All companies who seek to use technologies that block FCC-approved Wi-Fi connections are on notice that such practices are patently unlawful,” said Travis LeBlanc, chief of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau.
Note: it is a matter of a few clicks to set up a personal hotspot that allows the user to connect any WiFi device - such as an iPad or a laptop - to a signal and get full Internet access. (On iPhone 6 look under SETTINGS. There’s a “Personal Hotspot” tab. Click it.) A plus is that this WiFi is vastly more secure than public WiFi such as the kind found at a hotel, coffee shop or convention center. It is free (usually part of a data plan), and it is often as fast or faster than frequently overworked hotel networks. There is every reason to want to use it.
What’s not to like? For facility operators, what they do not like is loss of easy money.