The Federal Communications Commission has just issued an announcement stating that its Enforcement Bureau “today proposed a $25,000 fine against Hilton Worldwide Holdings, Inc. for its apparent obstruction of an investigation into whether Hilton engaged in the blocking of consumers’ Wi-Fi devices.” The Bureau has also warned of much higher fines if the Hilton group fails to comply immediately with its requests for information.
The whole affair apparently stems from a complaint to the FCC dating from August 2014, when “the Commission received an initial consumer complaint alleging that the Hilton in Anaheim, California blocked visitors’ Wi-Fi hot spots unless those consumers paid a $500 fee to access Hilton’s Wi-Fi. The Commission has also received Wi-Fi blocking complaints involving other Hilton properties.” However, “after nearly one year, Hilton has failed to provide the requested information for the vast majority of its properties. Hilton operates several brands, including Hilton, Conrad, DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, and Waldorf Astoria properties.”
As detailed in previous TeleRead reports, the FCC has long deemed Wi-Fi blocking in hotels, convention centers, and similar facilities to be absolutely forbidden practice. In the circumstances, it’s surprising to see any hospitality chain still trying it. And the FCC release makes the consequences clear. “In October 2014, the FCC fined Marriott International, Inc. and Marriott Hotel Services, Inc. $600,000 for similar Wi-Fi blocking activities at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee. In August 2015, the FCC fined Smart City Holdings, LLC $750,000 for similar Wi-Fi blocking at multiple convention centers across the country. The Commission also recently proposed to fine M.C. Dean $718,000 for apparent Wi-
Fi blocking at the Baltimore Convention Center.” Will the Hilton group’s properties be added to the guilty list? We’ll see. But right now, you might already want to reconsider your hospitality choices.