Marriott on Friday US time agreed to pay US$600,000 to the Federal Communications Commission after the regulator accused the hotel chain of blocking guests from using their own mobile hotspots so that they would be forced to purchase the hotel's own Wi-Fi services.
According to a filing from the FCC, Marriott employees at the chain's Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Centre in the US used a wi-fi monitoring system that identified and ultimately blocked access to third-party wi-fi access points not part of its own network.
The result, according to the filing, is that conference goers were essentially forced to purchase wi-fi connectivity from the Marriott, which charges between US$250 and US$1,000 per wireless access point.
According to a statement from FCC Enforcement Bureau chief Travis LeBlanc, it is "unacceptable for any hotel to intentionally disable personal hot spots while also charging consumers and small businesses high fees to use the hotel's own wi-fi network."
Marriott, for its part, denied any wrongdoing, and said it was only attempting to protect guests from "rogue wireless hotspots" that can potentially lead to cyber attacks or compromise network performance.
"Like many other institutions and companies in a wide variety of industries, including hospitals and universities, the Gaylord Opryland protected its wi-fi network by using FCC-authorised equipment provided by well-known, reputable manufacturers. We believe that the Gaylord Opryland's actions were lawful," Marriott said in a statement.
"We will continue to encourage the FCC to pursue a rulemaking in order to eliminate the ongoing confusion resulting from today's action and to assess the merits of its underlying policy."
The FCC said it launched an investigation into the matter after receiving a complaint in March 2013 from a conference attendee at the Gaylord Opryland. The guest claimed at the time that Marriott employees were "jamming mobile hotspots so that you can't use them in the convention space".
In addition to the US$600,000 fine, the Marriott is required to submit compliance and wi-fi usage reports to the Enforcement Bureau every three months for three years.
This article originally appeared at crn.com