The Federal Communications Commission issued a warning for hotels that blocking Wi-Fi is "illegal."
The question came up when Marriott began blocking personal hotspots to force customers to buy the hotel's own Wi-Fi, according to Ars Technica. The FCC fined Marriott $600,000 in October for doing just that in Nashville, Tenn. Although the hotel chain paid the fine, it asked for permission to block customer hotspots.
In the FCC enforcement advisory it said, "Persons or businesses causing intentional interference to Wi-Fi hotspots are subject to enforcement action. . . . No hotel, convention center, or other commercial establishment or the network operator providing services at such establishments may intentionally block or disrupt personal Wi-Fi hot spots on such premises, including as part of an effort to force consumers to purchase access to the property owner’s Wi-Fi network." The FCC called any action that would do this "illegal" and would be subject to fines.
It's rare that we have a story where the FCC seems to be the voice of reason against a clearly bad decision, but Marriott's actions were neither customer-friendly nor good business. We know that many hotels, especially upscale ones, charge a lot of money for Wi-Fi when more inexpensive lodgings offer it free to customers. The reason? Because they feel wealthier people will pay for it or it will be a business expense charged to a company. Apparently the Wi-Fi charges equal millions which is why the chain doesn't want to stop charging for it, but it has no right to block personal hotspots.