Monday, November 2, 2015

When Hotels and Convention Centers Block Hot Spot Signals

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[1], 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.[2]
                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.

[2] ibid


  1. From a personal, non-business perspective, I think what they are doing is a horrible idea. They should not be able to block our signals, and the deserve to be hit with fines left and right due to that. We are simply trying to save money and make is easier for ourselves to use Wi-Fi. Not to mention, these hotels already have a fairly high net income at the end of their quarter and the Wi-Fi won't make a substantial difference. From a business perspective, I think you are correct in saying that, "denying someone of the internet is not the correct approach to their financial problem," so I would think of something else to bring in more money, not anger customers over something silly like this.

  2. In my opinion, this is a terrible idea by these companies to block hotspots. Wifi is something everybody immediately searches for when they enter a new location. By blocking it and allowing customers to either use up all their data or pay extra to use Wifi, customers will actually step away from hotels such as Hilton. They will go to a different hotel that offer Wifi as their services. Instead of the companies blocking hotspots (Wifi should be free, the Internet is for everyone since it is free), companies should just include it in their budget for their fee. Based on the principles of net neutrality, ISPs must allow customers equal access to content and applications, regardless of the source or nature of the content. These hotels need to think of something else to solve their financial problem. Maybe they can offer discounts or lower prices on their meals/rooms. Purposely blocking Wifi is immoral. Furthermore, after more research, WiFi blocking is actually prohibited based on a FCC public notice. The FCC issued a statement saying "Persons or Businesses Causing Intentional Interference to Wifi Hot-Spots Are Subject to Enforcement Action" (FCC). In this case, if these companies/hotels are purposely blocking wifi, they should be fined in heavy amounts.

    Works Cited
    "WARNING: Wi-Fi Blocking Is Prohibited." WARNING: Wi-Fi Blocking Is Prohibited. N.p., 27 Jan. 2015. Web. 08 Nov. 2015.

  3. Although I agree that it is a terrible business strategy to block customers’ use of the internet from their personal hotspots, there are some severe legal issues behind the act of blocking Wi-Fi access. Hilton was fined for not providing the FCC with the documents and information necessary investigate the speculation that they blocked Wi-Fi access from their guests. They face potential increased fines if they continue to ignore the requests of the FCC. Even though, Wi-Fi is an expense for the hotel, it does not give them the right to block guests from utilizing resources they already pay for through their mobile network provider.
    Charging guests an additional fee for Wi-Fi is understandable to cover the cost they are charged as a business for the service. However, Wi-Fi has become increasingly demanded by guests whether they be business professionals in town for a conference or college students whose parents are visiting for the weekend and trying to squeeze in some assignments. Hotel companies, such as the Marriott and the Hilton, should include the standard Wi-Fi cost in the rate of the room that way they can access the internet without having to pay an additional fee just because the company does not want to include it. Also, I know from personal experience some hotels suggest you become rewards members of their hotels so that you can have free Wi-Fi at all of their locations and in return you also earn points towards your future stays.
    Blocking such a basic need in society today is definitely one of the worse ideas I’ve heard when it comes to businesses trying to generate more revenue in small ways. It’s wrong to take away personal hotspots because the price is reflected in their monthly phone bill, but the internet as a whole is something that is almost hard to believe. Businesses should find ways to keep things affordable for customers while boosting their revenues in other ways such as, offering different services or special events that might be occurring within the hotel. There are always ways to increase your revenues and lower your expenses, without taking advantage of the public to expects quality service with basic essentials, such as Wi-Fi.

  4. I believe what they are doing is not a good idea. From a personal perspective, I am constantly using Wi-FI for multiple different reasons. As you mentioned earlier, Wi-Fi is the top way of accessing the modern world, so these companies should not be allowed to block Wi-Fi in certain places so they can make more money. From a business perspective, I understand why these companies want to block Wi-FI in certain locations to make more money but it isn’t fair to the people. I was recently at the Grand Hyatt in NYC and they offered free Wi-FI connection but it didn’t work as well as I would have liked it to. So, maybe these companies should focus on enhancing their Wi-Fi connection, rather than trying to make money off of it.

  5. As the author and many commenters point out, I completely agree that from a non-business perspective what these hotels and convention center are doing is vey wrong. Everyone deserves equal right to the Internet, and if I was on vacation and my Wi-Fi was getting blocked I would be outraged. But from a business perspective this is genius. During peak season a hotel is almost contently booked, and if every room is forced to sign up for your Wi-Fi the hotel could stand to make a huge profit. One tactic hotels could try to employ instead of blocking Wi-Fi could be to bundle the Wi-Fi service into the overall cost of the room, life the author of this blog points out. They could also advertise better speeds and signal strength than conventional hot spots, something that is very important to people alike. All of this could help ensure more profit in a much more legal and moral way.


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