Marriott, Hospitality Industry Want FCC to Clarify or Ease Up on Jamming Regs for Wi-Fi

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The FCC has just released for comment a petition filed in August 2014 by Marriott, Ryman Hospitality Properties and the American Hospitality & Lodging Association (Petitioners) seeking a declaratory ruling or rulemaking that would allow a Wi-Fi operator to “monitor and mitigate threats to the security and reliability of its network, even when doing so may result in ‘interference’ to [an unlicensed] Part 15 device being operated by a guest on [the Wi-Fi operator’s] property.”  The petitioners express concern over attacks against operators’ networks or violations of guests’ privacy (e.g., obtaining guests’ credit card information).  Earlier this year Marriott was dinged by the FCC to the tune of $600,000 for jamming guests’ own Wi-Fi networks at a Nashville property while at the same time charging for access to Marriott’s own Wi-Fi network.  The Petitioners argue that Section 333 of the Communications Act, which prohibits willful or malicious interference with radio communications of licensed or authorized stations, was never intended to prohibit interference to a Wi-Fi access point or any Part 15 device.  But even if Section 333 were to govern Part 15 devices, the petitioners ask that the FCC either (1) clarify that a Wi-Fi network operator does not violate Section 333 when any interference results from the use of FCC-authorized equipment in managing its network and affects Part 15 devices used by guests on the operator’s property; or (2) initiate a rulemaking that would specify the interference to Part 15 devices that Section 333 prohibits.  Comments on the petition are due by December 19, 2014.

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