Microsoft and Google want you to be able use personal wi-fi hotspots at hotels, even though some hotel chains are petitioning the government to block those signals.
In letters to the FCC, the tech giants are butting heads with the hotel industry, which wants to block Wi-Fi signals, presumably so they can force guests onto on-premise Wi-Fi networks that cost a lot of money. The hotels also argue that they want to provide guests with a secure Internet experience, using intentional “interference” to disrupt personal hotspots. A federal investigation against Marriott was launched in 2013 over the issue of hotel guests being unable to use their personal hotspots at the hotel chain.
But Google, Microsoft, along with the wireless trade association the CTIA, contend that the hotels are attempting to take control of unlicensed spectrum. Microsoft writes in a petition that the hotels are effectively enclosing the spectrum around the facilities against other authorized devices.
Microsoft and Google say that’s against the rules, with Google noting in its petition to the FCC that “jamming Wi-Fi is against the public interest.” In fact, Google argues that is a public safety issue.
Further, allowing hotels and other property owners to block communications with lawfully operated Wi-Fi access points could endanger guests on those properties. Consumers increasingly rely on Wi-Fi and VoIP technologies to make calls when carrier voice service is not available, and this includes calls to emergency services. Especially in a place of public accommodation, disconnecting network connections on which users rely puts health and safety at risk.
Meanwhile, Microsoft writes that the FCC has routinely ruled against the “jamming” of Wi-Fi signals:
The Commission has made clear on numerous occasions that intentional interference with unlicensed devices violates Section 333,17 and that its definition of “jammers” includes devices used to intentionally prevent others’ Wi-Fi connections.18 A person who uses FCC-authorized equipment to de-authenticate another device interferes with that device’s operation by preventing it from attaching to its desired access point. Similarly, a person willfully operating a device to fill the air with energy, in the form of noise, a discernable signal, or beacons, for purposes of reserving the medium, and preventing a Wi-Fi device from attaching to an access point in a geographic area for an indeterminate period of time would also implicate Section 333.
Here is more on the FCC action, and below is a letter that Microsoft sent to the FCC earlier this month.