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Marriott: The TRUTH about personal Wi-Fi hotel jam bid

We'll just block conference and convention areas instead

The Marriott hotel chain – slammed for jamming guests' personal Wi-Fi hotspots – has tried to explain why it's asking for permission to interfere with wireless networks.

Marriott, Hilton, and the American Hotel & Lodging Association, had together petitioned US watchdog the Federal Communications Commission for clarification – they had asked if it was OK to limit either standalone Wi-Fi hotspots or wireless-tethered smartphones on the grounds they can hamper the hotel's own network.

Said jamming would not be performed by banned equipment and techniques, but by spamming Wi-Fi channels with dissociation packets, which require no authentication and effectively boot everyone off a particular network, for example.

The trio say the use of such personal hotspots is fine in guests' rooms, but not in other areas of the hotel. They claim this has nothing to do with protecting cash trousered from selling expensive Wi-Fi access in such areas, just that the hotspots could cause networking problems and open up security holes, allegedly.

Not surprisingly their petition was opposed by the likes of Microsoft and Google, and judging from the Reg forums quite a lot of readers are disgruntled at the suggestion. Now Marriott has issued a statement seeking to calm people down and explain itself.

"We understand there have been concerns regarding our position on the FCC petition filing, perhaps due to a lack of clarity about the issue. To be clear, this matter does not involve in any way Wi-Fi access in hotel guestrooms or lobby spaces," it said.

"The question at hand is what measures a network operator can take to detect and contain rogue and imposter Wi-Fi hotspots used in our meeting and conference spaces that pose a security threat to meeting or conference attendees or cause interference to the conference guest wireless network."

El Reg wonders what Marriott's IT admins are doing, if their networks are so flimsy that they can be disrupted by a $50 Wi-Fi hotspot.

So far there's no indication the FCC will listen to the poor, starving hotel chains. In October the agency fined the Marriott Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee, $600,000 for blocking personal hotspots. ®

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