Mariott doesn’t have the right to jam wi-fi

Mariott wants to jam wi-fi signals. They claim it’s for security reasons, but really it’s so they can gouge guests by charging them for wi-fi instead of using wi-fi hotspots. The security claims are pure bunk.

The truth is that hotel wi-fi networks are generally horrendously insecure, so it’s really better to avoid using them if you can.

The problem is that there’s no segmentation. You and the other guests are sitting on the same network, so your computers can and do interact with one another, and with the hotel’s computers.

For this very reason, many companies tell their executives not to use hotel wi-fi, and instead use a portable hotspot from a cellular provider. Because these hotel networks are so poorly managed, the portable hotspot often is faster, as well.

These portable wi-fi hotspots do nothing to degrade the security of the hotel network, contrary to their claims. The separate wi-fi networks coexist just fine, just like the myriad of wi-fi networks in my neighborhood coexist just fine. My neighbors’ networks don’t infect one another and they don’t infect mine. The same is true in everyone else’s neighborhood.

Mariott is arguing that it has the right to jam the wi-fi signals. It doesn’t. The 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands used by wi-fi don’t belong to Mariott. They belong to all of us. All of us, not just large corporations. That means we have the right to use them.

Few people would argue that hotels have the right to jam cellular signals so that they can force you to use the hotel’s wired phones to make phone calls–and thus charge exorbitant long-distance rates. This is no different.

This is precisely the kind of bad behavior the FCC exists to prevent. The FCC has fined Mariott once for doing this, and if they continue to break the law, the FCC needs to continue to fine them. And consumers need to stay at a different hotel chain.

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