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Wi-Fi hotspot blocking persists despite FCC crackdown

Bob Brown | March 11, 2016
Our examination of complaints to FCC finds consumer suspicions about big name hotels even after large fines for Wi-Fi hotspot blocking were issued

Behind The Wi-Fi Hotspot Blocking Scenes

The blocking of Wi-Fi hotspots at hotels and convention centers is naturally much more complicated than what you can glean from consumer complaints, says technology marketing veteran Andy Abramson, author of the VoIPwatch blog and a victim of Wi-Fi blocking himself. He tells of one Las Vegas venue – since fined -- that was threatening to escort people out of the building if they were caught using a third-party connection. 

“They weren’t blocking using technology, they were blocking by intimidation,” he says. 

The real backstory to much of this, Abramson says, is that venues typically have contracts with third-party providers written by attorneys whose expertise lies in real estate or commercial dealings rather than telecom/networking specifically. These deals guarantee exclusivity for broadband providers, and include promises for union electricians, etc., but don’t account for the major technology changes we’ve seen in wireless and beyond. They also can prevent companies from installing technology such as distributed antenna systems (DAS) that could help deliver LTE or 4G broadband services to venues, he said.

The end result has been that venues and their partners have looked to cover their costs by offering pricey Internet access -- and thus, “the Mi-Fi market was born,” Abramson says. There are promising changes taking place, especially at newer venues where better and more flexible wireless setups are being installed, but he says to date “it’s all been about ignorance to technology advancements or about milking the customer for as long as possible using older, slower technology so the investment is paid back and profits made.”

So yes, consumers have had plenty to complain about.


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