Wi-Fi has become one of the top ways, if not the top way, for people to access the internet in the modern world. Wi-Fi connections are even available in many public places for free, including huge stores such as Starbucks and McDonalds. Planes even give Wi-Fi access to its customers now. Many places, however, want to charge people in order to access their Wi-Fi connection, specifically hotels like Hiltons or Marriotts. Many people combat this by creating a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot either with their phone or a portable hotspot. These create a short-range Wi-Fi signal by converting your cell phone data into the Wi-Fi signal. Financially, it makes sense for consumers, since one hotspot can give Wi-Fi signal to multiple devices, while using data that is already paid for in their monthly cell phone bill.
Recently, there have been investigations by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on companies like Hilton about their Wi-Fi access. According to the article, “Hilton fined for obstructing FCC investigation into Wi-Fi blocking,” by Martyn Williams, Hilton, Marriott and multiple convention centers, including the one in Baltimore, have reportedly blocked people’s hot spot signals while in these respective locations.
According to the article, the investigation into Hilton started in November of 2014, when the FCC requested information about their Wi-Fi management practices. After a year, Hilton has not given this information, and they were hit with a $25,000 fine for their lack of cooperation. If they are found to have blocked Wi-Fi signals, they would see a similar punishment that Marriott saw in 2014, when they were hit with a $600,000 fine. M.C. Dean, the electrical contractor that controlled the Wi-Fi at the Baltimore Convention Center, was fined $718,000 for blocking hot spot signals; similarly, the Wi-Fi network operator Smart City was fined $750,000 in multiple convention centers across the country.
From a business perspective, I can understand why these companies would want to block these signals; they would want to eliminate as much competition as possible so that customers use their internet service instead. They clearly would want their consumers to purchase their Wi-Fi, instead of using an outside service, so that they make a profit with their investment. However, these companies have attacked this issue incorrectly. Despite the need to combat this hurdle in their business, they are legally prohibited from blocking any Wi-Fi signals. Internet access is a right that cannot be legally taken away from a person; everyone deserves to have access to the internet no matter what means they use, either from their own hot spot, or purchasing access through the hotel or convention center. If the company wants people to use their service, they could instead include the charge in the hotel room’s price, and use the perk of included Wi-Fi as a marketing strategy. Denying someone of the internet is not the correct approach to their financial problem.