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Oct 09, 2014

What impact will the FCC-Marriott decision have beyond that specific case?

I’m sure most people are aware of a recent $600,000 fine imposed against Marriott by the FCC for the hotel blocking it’s customers hot-spots, therefore forcing them to use the hotels own WiFi service. Of course, that WiFi service was not included in the room charges, but rather an expensive add on. How expensive? Up to $1000 according to the FCC!

The thing is, while I agree with this particular decision, Marriott was using the same containment feature that is part of many enterprise WLAN systems. Does this mean that feature is now useless, or was the FCC ruling limited to the facts of that particular case?

10/16/2014
It could have unintended consequences. As you point out, the containment features that Marriott used to block guests hotspots is the same containment feature that is used by many enterprise WLANs to prevent use of unauthorized devices. There was an article in Network Computing a week or two ago that points this out and asks whether this could apply to hospitals that use the feature to prevent disruption of sensitive medical equipment. The thing is, we don’t know if it could or not. The FCC didn’t make any distinction between signal jammers and sending deauthorization packets, which may need some clarification to prevent penalizing legitimate uses. Marriott was just being greedy and there was no valid justification for blocking guests hotspots, so I agree with this ruling. It’s just too broad as it stands.
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