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Wireless Networking Communications Crime Networking

Marriott Fined $600,000 For Jamming Guest Hotspots 278

schwit1 writes: Marriott will cough up $600,000 in penalties after being caught blocking mobile hotspots so that guests would have to pay for its own Wi-Fi services, the FCC has confirmed today. The fine comes after staff at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee were found to be jamming individual hotspots and then charging people up to $1,000 per device to get online. Marriott has been operating the center since 2012, and is believed to have been running its interruption scheme since then. The first complaint to the FCC, however, wasn't until March 2013, when one guest warned the Commission that they suspected their hardware had been jammed.
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Marriott Fined $600,000 For Jamming Guest Hotspots

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  • by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @02:31PM (#48057555) Homepage

    I just wonder if the fine that Marriott had to pay actually was large enough to take out the profit that they got from the jamming.

    • by Tuidjy ( 321055 )

      Are you kidding?

      They were jamming for two years in a convention center where thousands of people meet every weekend, and they were charging exorbitant fees, in some cases $1000 per device. If this looks too high to you, imagine you are giving a talk about the last 18 months of your research, and a prearranged setup stops working. Your tenure, your reputation, your tenure may depend on that talk. And that's just for researchers. A company that has gathered a thousand POS managers for a discussion of a ne

      • by Yakasha ( 42321 )

        Are you kidding?

        They were jamming for two years in a convention center where thousands of people meet every weekend, and they were charging exorbitant fees, in some cases $1000 per device. If this looks too high to you, imagine you are giving a talk about the last 18 months of your research, and a prearranged setup stops working. Your tenure, your reputation, your tenure may depend on that talk. And that's just for researchers. A company that has gathered a thousand POS managers for a discussion of a new system will have millions on the line.

        Captive customer base indeed.

        Fines seldom come close to wiping out the profits from the con, when big businesses with lobbyists are involved. I have personally participated in a cleanup effort (mostly through volunteers) which used about $30,000 on top of our donated time and equipment. While we were working, the assholes released more detectable crap, and were fined $2,500. But hey, they are golfing with the local high scum.

        Did you host an event there? Sue Marriott in civil court.

        • by CauseBy ( 3029989 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @03:23PM (#48058031)

          Yeah that's one way.

          Another way is to have laws and fines that are sufficient to actually stop abuses, instead of burdening courts with remunerating for abuses after the fact. I prefer this way.

          For instance, yeah my family could sue the maker of the tainted drug that kills me, or we could just have the nanny state certify drug manufacturers and then people don't have to die nearly so much in the first place. I think that is a better world so that's the one I support.

      • If this looks too high to you, imagine you are giving a talk about the last 18 months of your research, and a prearranged setup stops working.

        Not that this excuses their illegal behaviour but if you are giving a talk that important and you do not have at least one local copy of the talk without then your reputation deserves to take a battering. I'd be astounded if such a thing seriously affected someone's tenure though - it certainly would not where I work.

  • Inverse Wi-fi law (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 03, 2014 @02:31PM (#48057561)

    Why is it that the most awful dumpy motels always seem to have free, open and strong wi-fi? Many don't even bother with passwords.

    Yet it's the expensive name-brand boutique hotels that always charge for wi-fi. And more often not, it's terrible quality, hard to connect and slow?
    And, now we see this happening. This never happens at Motel 6.

    Has anyone else noticed this- that overall the cheaper and sleazier the motel, the better the wi-fi?

    • Re:Inverse Wi-fi law (Score:5, Interesting)

      by anjrober ( 150253 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @02:35PM (#48057605)

      this holds true across the board for hotels.
      cheap hotels give free breakfast, nice hotels charge a small fortune
      cheap hotels give free parking, nice hotels charge a small fortune
      nicer hotels (like the gaylord mentioned) charge a resort fee of $25 per day for basically no services at all.
      cheap hotels though are competing on stuff like free wifi, free breakfast, etc
      where the nicer hotels are competing on location, beautiful facility, etc.

      i still don't understand though the $1k fee. i have stayed at that gaylord many times. its not a $1k fee for internet, ever. more like $20 per day (unless your marriott gold or platinum, then its free).

      • I read an article on this some time back and I unfortunately can't cite where. It stated that the more expensive hotels actually have lower margins of profit than the cheaper hotels and they can't afford to make those amenities for free. Everything is more expensive for them and the profit is lower, so they tend to nickle-and-dime the fees quite a bit more.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          What happens is people willing to pay $250 per room per night will be willing to pay an extra $25 or $50 per day for their internet. Someone that is not willing to pay even $100 per night, probably will not pay extra $5 or $10 for internet. So the cheap hotels just make it free as a way of getting more budget customers.

          It's the same for everything. If you are willing to pay for delivery or room service, you are willing to shell out for a tip too. If you go for buffet breakfast, then most likely no tips are

        • My observation has been that resort hotels (the ones with restaurants in them) charge an arm and a leg because they are targeting two type of customers:

          1. Tourists/Vacationers
          2. Convention/Conference goers

          In the case of #1, you're probably not a repeat customer (or at least, repeat often enough for them to care). They want to wring every last dollar out of you while they can.

          In the case of #2, you're a captive customer (the con is nearby or in this hotel, unless you have a car you're not going
      • Re:Inverse Wi-fi law (Score:4, Informative)

        by Lendrick ( 314723 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @02:41PM (#48057655) Homepage Journal

        I think it's because cheap hotels are for regular travelers and nice hotels are for people traveling on business who will be reimbursed by their employers. Even for expensive hotels, the prices are pretty minuscule compared to what a big company can afford, so money is really no object for them. So the employees book at expensive hotels because it's kind of a perk of traveling for their company, and private individuals book at cheap ones because that's what they can afford.

      • Re:Inverse Wi-fi law (Score:5, Informative)

        by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @02:48PM (#48057719) Journal

        its not a $1k fee for internet, ever

        Not everyone at the hotel is staying in a room at the hotel.

        Do they hold business conferences there? Our company sends me to man the sales booth at conferences/expos all the time, and the hotels charge us ridiculous rates. I haven't gotten to $1000 yet, but the last one was at a Radisson which had a $150 "setup fee" plus $80/day per device for a two day conference (I expensed $20 to turn on my sprint hotspot for a month to run our demonstration ipad and ipod touch).

        • Seriously. Once, in a pickle, I paid $30 ($30!!) for wifi for a one-night stay. We got my wife hooked up then I tried to connect -- NOPE! They wanted a second $30 for the second device.

          I spoofed my wife's MAC address and swore off that shit hotel forever.

          • by jd659 ( 2730387 )
            A few realize that it's possible to run a wi-fi client and a hotspot on the same card in a laptop at the same time. I had a similar experience with the hotel that allowed only one mac address connection. So I connected my laptop, created a new hotspot called "free wi-fi" and had it running all the time I was at the hotel without any credentials. At least I could connect all my devices and provide a useful public service at the same time.
      • by torkus ( 1133985 )

        You misunderstand.

        Guests in the common areas and rooms pay $stupid per day for WiFi.
        Convention areas have different APs and charge $Obscene per day per account/device for WiFi.

    • I've certainly noticed that. Midrange value-oriented places frequently include a continental breakfast too, whereas high-end places want you to buy their overpriced breakfast.

      Sometimes I enjoy employing certain Priceline biding tactics to get a $200 room for $81, but other than the appearance the less-expensive places are often just as good or better.

      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        I've certainly noticed that. Midrange value-oriented places frequently include a continental breakfast too, whereas high-end places want you to buy their overpriced breakfast.

        Last year when I was driving back from Florida(in march), I stopped at a Microtel(wish I could remember where but I'd been on the road 12hrs by that point) which had an actual cook on staff for morning breakfasts. I was thoroughly impressed, not only at the menu that was included but that it was "donation only."

    • If you can afford a decent hotel, you're less likely to balk at $20 wifi. If, on the other hand, you're looking to spend $50 a night for a hotel room, getting cheap entertainment is probably just as much a priority.

      • If you can afford a decent hotel, you're less likely to balk at $20 wifi. If, on the other hand, you're looking to spend $50 a night for a hotel room, getting cheap entertainment is probably just as much a priority.

        Actually, if I pay good money for a room, I hate if they try to make me pay for the nose for WiFi. If you pay $50 for a room, you can probably keep yourself entertained by watching the local wild life in your room.

    • by Andy Dodd ( 701 )

      Nope. Best free wifi I've ever used was at a Marriott, and best wifi I used on my last vacation was at the most expensive hotel we stayed at (we were always at budget hotels though). Many of the networks were set up my totally incompetent idiots.

      This is not Marriott corporate policy - this happened at a single location that happens to also be a convention center, and is more about the practices of the convention center and not the hotel.

    • Why is it that the most awful dumpy motels always seem to have free, open and strong wi-fi? Many don't even bother with passwords.

      Yet it's the expensive name-brand boutique hotels that always charge for wi-fi. And more often not, it's terrible quality, hard to connect and slow?
      And, now we see this happening. This never happens at Motel 6.

      Has anyone else noticed this- that overall the cheaper and sleazier the motel, the better the wi-fi?

      Simple. People who stay at economy hotels don't have a lot of money to burn. They're also noisy. So if the hotel provides crappy internet, these vocal (but economically challenged) people get online and post bad reviews.

      I can speak from experience on the quality of Wifi in economy hotels. It just frickin' works, never had a problem.

      I imagine the upscale hotels can get away with charging high fees for nearly useless internet because people staying there have moolah, and people whom have a lot of moolah

      • Higher end hotels charge for that crap because they're trying to keep you from holing up in your room and pushing out into their bars or hotel restaurants or even the nearby establishments.

    • by Strider- ( 39683 )

      Because most of the more expensive hotels are catering to business travellers, who will moan, then just expense the cost of getting online.

    • Yep. Totally agreed. Many times I have selected the higher quality lower cost hotel for exactly that purpose.

      Here is what I expect from a hotel in priority order

      * Separate bedroom from other guests (all hotels today offer this)
      * Clean bed (all hotels offer this)
      * Access to a bathroom (all hotels offer this)
      * Fast free wifi (only at cheap hotels)
      * Separate bathroom from other guests (all large hotels but not many small ones)
      * Parking spot (only at cheap hotels)
      *** this is where I stop giving a shit about ame

      • Honestly these days it's often quicker to tether. Even in rural NC last week I was able to pick up a 4g signal that gave me 10Mbit/s down. The free hotel wifi struggled to hit 2Mbit

    • The last Motel 6 I stayed at charged $29/night for Wi-Fi.

      They didn't attack my hotspot.

    • by steveha ( 103154 )

      Has anyone else noticed this- that overall the cheaper and sleazier the motel, the better the wi-fi?

      I wouldn't go that far.

      I once stayed in a really bargain hotel, which advertised free WiFi. I think they had a single consumer wireless router in the office, and my room was not close to the office... I couldn't get a usable signal. So no, definitely not "the cheaper... the better the WiFi".

      But middle-of-the-road hotels generally have perfectly usable WiFi. I wouldn't try to stream Netflix on it but it's f

  • The Opryland Hotel blocks customers wifi at conventions hosted in the hotel since they sell their own service. Here's their statement from Jeff Flaherty, a Marriott spokesman...

    "Marriott has a $trong intere$t in en$uring that when our gue$t$ use our Wi-Fi $ervice, they will be protected from rogue wirele$$ hot$pot$ that can cau$e degraded $ervice, insidious cyber-attacks and identity theft."

    Dollar signs added for emphasis. That hotel sells dedicated wireless services and custom networks for convention purpo

  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @02:33PM (#48057585)
    To return the jamming favor.
  • by Southpaw018 ( 793465 ) * on Friday October 03, 2014 @02:33PM (#48057587) Journal

    Heh. Just commented on this on the Gizmodo post an hour ago. Please forgive the copypasta for my first post on Slashdot in probably 5 years.

    My organization recently had a conference in a hotel owned by Marriott in a large Southern city. Not only did they want $500 per device per day for any Internet access — wired or wireless — the $12.95/day in-room wifi straight up did not work. They'd take your money before you could figure out it didn't work, of course. And if you ponied up the $16.95 for the "high speed" in-room wifi, it...barely worked. Barely.

    We request one wired connection now. And once it's connected and the hotel staffers leave, I set up our own router with our own network. I'm pretty sure that if there was will or pressure on various and sundry consumer protection agencies, the prices charged by many hotel chains — with Marriott properties being the worst of them all — would not hold up in court.

    I'll also add that our Director of Events is fairly convinced a new Marriott property in Washington, DC is doing this right now.

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      I've only held events in hotels that included Internet for "free" (with the price of the event). Shop for better hotels (no, not more stars, but better service).
      • I've only held events in hotels that included Internet for "free" (with the price of the event). Shop for better hotels (no, not more stars, but better service).

        According to consumer reports, the cheaper the hotel, the more likely it is they provide free wifi. Wealthier guests are easier to gouge for small things.

    • by i.r.id10t ( 595143 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @02:46PM (#48057697)

      I just stayed at a fancy hotel in Boston, they wanted $20/day internet access (wired or wireless).

      First night I was actually able to connect to the public library a few blocks down the road, but it was VERY slow (3k/sec). After that first night, I was never able to reconnect....

      Then I found out the hotel has internet connected TVs, so I plugged my *nix laptop into one of their jacks, got DHCP, and did a (ze)nmap scan to find all the other TVs. Picked one at random, grabbed its MAC address, and spoofed it on my network card. Wallah! Free access.

      Charging for 'net access in a $50/night room I can understand - even if it is $10 or so. A $500/night room though should come with free wireless.... strangely in my travels, many cheap places (ie the $50-80/ngiht places I pay for) give free wireless, free coffee, sometimes some sort of free breakfast service, etc and the expensive fancy hotels (that my filthy rich relatives use and pay for, which is why I ended up in one in Boston) not only don't have these as free, but the prices they charge are outrageous ($24 for 2 eggs over medium, hashbrowns, bacon, toast vs. the same meal at Dennys, Waffle House, Perkins, any local diner, etc. for under $10).

      • Just so you know, thanks to US crappy laws, that was "exceeding authorization" and a serious computer crime.

      • by hondo77 ( 324058 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @02:58PM (#48057813) Homepage

        ...and spoofed it on my network card. Voilà! Free access.

        FTFY.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        Charging for 'net access in a $50/night room I can understand - even if it is $10 or so. A $500/night room though should come with free wireless.... strangely in my travels, many cheap places (ie the $50-80/ngiht places I pay for) give free wireless, free coffee, sometimes some sort of free breakfast service, etc and the expensive fancy hotels (that my filthy rich relatives use and pay for, which is why I ended up in one in Boston) not only don't have these as free, but the prices they charge are outrageous

    • by Bob9113 ( 14996 )

      I'll also add that our Director of Events is fairly convinced a new Marriott property in Washington, DC is doing this right now.

      Has your Director of Events considered not doing business with Marriott, or at least putting them on the "only if nothing else is available" list?

  • 600k too small. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @02:35PM (#48057609) Journal

    $600k seems too small for such a large company. This is very sinister behavior. It would be like Burger King parking unmarked trucks or actors playing drunk bums in front of McDondalds' drive-through lanes to block customers.

  • Sounds About Right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by darkain ( 749283 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @02:36PM (#48057619) Homepage

    "The first complaint to the FCC, however, wasn't until March 2013, when one guest warned the Commission that they suspected their hardware had been jammed."

    How many guests would have the technical knowledge to tell if a device is being "jammed" or simply "isn't working" or that "cell reception is bad"?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 03, 2014 @02:38PM (#48057629)

    Only one man would dare... Lone Star!

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @02:44PM (#48057677) Journal
    Unless they made less than 600K by this scheme, they are coming out ahead. Such slap in the wrist is not likely to stop such practices.

    I am very sure it is not the top management of Marriot that dreamt up this scheme. The top honchos of most companies are so technologically inept they need tech support to turn on their iPads. It is most likely a local operation. The local manager lamenting not showing any revenue increase despite installing the WiFi access point server. And from the ranks someone down realizing jamming is possible. After that it is simple making bonus and making numbers for the local team that set up the scheme. The top guy has collected his bonus and will find another job. The mid level guys who knew it would be fired and have to look for a new job. The tab is paid by a big faceless corporation. This is likely to happen again.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 03, 2014 @02:44PM (#48057679)

    is that now that's less money that Mariott can donate to the Mormon church. Anything to deprive that cult of funds is a good thing.

    I have, for years, because of Marriott's cozy relationship with the Mormons, refused to stay in one of their properties or any property owned by same.

  • by torkus ( 1133985 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @02:48PM (#48057711)

    So they basically got away with it. $600k when they're charging $250-$1K per wireless account? Yeah...that's fair.

    Personal experience:
    I was a vendor at a conference in this exact hotel in 2013. Internet access was ridiculously expensive...per account which they prohibited sharing between devices of course. Handy when you're trying to present and sell technical services...and your hotspot doesn't work. Many vendors complained about how their hotspots weren't working, quite a few sucked it up and paid the extortion fee. Now I guess we know why. What I want to know is ... where are the refunds? Where are the damages being paid back? My conference was fairly small (this hotel is beyond enormous mind you) and there still had to be 100+ vendors. We were one of ... I don't know ... 5-10 conferences that weekend?

    At a bare minimum the FCC should find them equal to all the WiFi access fees they collected while this system was in place. Would some have paid anyhow? Yes. This is meant to punitive after all.

    Oh...and don't let me get started on how they *required* you to "rent" carpet for your booth 10'x10' booth (starting at several hundred dollars) and pay for power connections - another several hundred dollars for the lowest ~300w 110v connection. Then there were fees to receive fedex boxes, fees to store them until you got them, fees to deliver them to you, etc. Want to rent a TV for your display? They quoted something like 6 grand for two 42" TVs with speakers. Yah huh. The vendor that got that quote laughed at them, went to costco and bought two TVs for ~$1500, then raffled them off.

    • Seems like you're asking for the FCC do go beyond their duties. What you're looking for is a class-action lawsuit.

  • From Hacker News (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Animats ( 122034 )

    Lately, Slashdot seems to be echoing Hacker News [ycombinator.com], about three hours late. If you're going to be a scraper site, you have to do it faster.

    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      Lately, Slashdot seems to be echoing Hacker News [ycombinator.com], about three hours late. If you're going to be a scraper site, you have to do it faster.

      You think that's bad? They follow Ars by about 3 days

  • This shit is why I strongly prefer AirBnB or other alternative forms of hospitality.

    I was at a hotel in London and found out that "Free wifi" meant it was freely available to reach the paid gateway. Sleezery seems to be in all large chains in large cities. You would think the high premium on staying there, and the economy of scale of the size of the hotel would mean that it's easier to provide good service to guests.

    By contrast, with AirBnB you'll probably get secure, unrestricted residential wifi, or

    • by torkus ( 1133985 )

      Let me know when AirBnB starts listing convention centers that can host 10K+ person events.

  • The money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kqc7011 ( 525426 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @03:20PM (#48057991)
    Is the $600,000 going to the government or the people that were affected? Could Marriott be in the crosshairs for a class action also?
  • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @06:32PM (#48059409)
    This is an egregious affront to the free market. When you are on Marriaot property, they should be able to jam your smartphoine, or even enter into a contract with say Samsung which will overload the front ends of the socialistic iPhones, rendering them useless.

    But Noooooo. We have to play by communista rules, where companies are not allowed to use the airwaves, which belong to them to intercept, jam or do whatever they want to, as guaranteed in the Constitution, when Jesus wrote it.

    Thanks, Obama.

  • by Dan Askme ( 2895283 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @11:31PM (#48060987) Homepage

    How did he do it?
    News for nerds, come on!

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