First, Marriott. Now, Smart City Holdings.
The Federal Communications Commission has fined Smart City Holdings $750,000 and ordered it to stop blocking visitors’ mobile hot-spot Wi-Fi at its convention centers across the country.
The FCC said Smart City had been blocking convention attendees’ personal mobile hot spots, while charging them money to use Smart City’s Wi-Fi. Normally, Smart City charges exhibitors and visitors $80 per day for its Wi-Fi. If its monitoring system detected an attendee trying to use a mobile hot spot to connect to the Internet, Smart City would automatically block that access.
In June 2014, the FCC received an informal complaint about consumers being unable to connect to the Internet at several Smart City-served venues. An investigation showed that Smart City had automatically blocked consumers at convention centers in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis; Phoenix; and Orlando, Fla.
“It is unacceptable for any company to charge consumers exorbitant fees to access the Internet while at the same time blocking them from using their own personal Wi-Fi hot spots to access the Internet,” FCC Enforcement Bureau chief Travis LeBlanc said. “All companies who seek to use technologies are on notice that such practices are patently unlawful.”
For its part, Smart City said that its Wi-Fi blockage resulted in “significantly less than 1 percent of all devices being de-authenticated.” The company provides Wi-Fi access to some 31 million users in public spaces annually. It did not admit liability, saying it did not know that the FCC had issues with its hot-spot-blocking practice.
This is the second time in 11 months that the FCC has enforced anti-blocking orders on commercial Internet providers, according to reports. In October, it fined Marriott International and Marriott Hotel Services $600,000 for a similar offense at the Nashville Convention Center.