Hotels have steadily been losing money over recent years due to cell phones, Airbnb and now wi-fi. With respect to the prevalence of cell phones, hotels can no longer charge for room phone usage. Airbnb is the Uber of hotels, where many people rent rooms and even entire homes from private homeowners rather than spend more money for a lesser experience at a hotel. Now, hotels are coming under fire for charging guests for use of wi-fi.
Most people are used to receiving free wi-fi service, whether in coffee shops, restaurants or airport lounges. Even some airlines provide free wi-fi.
Hotels have not been so generous.
People are also no longer using hotel pay-per-view movies, since guests can watch just about anything on their laptop. Wi-fi seems to be the last remaining service to charge fees. (With the exception of the minibar of course).
Hotels know how ever-critical guests’ reliance on the Internet has become and they do not want to miss out on capitalizing on this necessary service.
And, when faced with these additional Internet charges, many guests use free roaming services to accomplish exactly what hotels loath: using phones and tablets for wi-fi access.
So, hotels have decided to fight back. Despite United States regulations preventing hotels from blocking guests’ wi-fi signals, hotels allegedly have done just that.
America’s Communications Act bans the “willful or malicious interference” with lawful radio communications - including wi-fi. Yet, wi-fi access is one of the biggest “upcharges” facing hotel guests.
Many businesses hope that customers staying at fancy properties will not notice or will not care about the extra charges. In the meantime, less-expensive hotels offer free wi-fi access as a selling point to attract customers.
Now, United States authorities have started to crack down on the offending hotels - including the Hilton hotel chain - for illegally jamming guests’ personal wi-fi services.
As reported in the Times, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) received a number of complaints regarding the practice at several Hilton properties. However, the company ignored the FCC’s requests for documentation regarding its wi-fi policy for almost a year.
As a result, the FCC fined Hilton $25,000 for obstructing an investigation into claims that it blocked guests’ ability to use their own personal wi-fi hotspots unless they paid a fee.
Regulators said that the chain, which also operates DoubleTree, Waldorf Astoria, Embassy Suites, and Conrad could face a “significantly higher fine for any continued obstruction or delay.”
A Hilton spokesman denied that its hotels had blocked a guest’s wi-fi “to collect a fee.” However, the spokesperson did not comment as to whether the hotel had blocked a guest’s wi-fi service for other reasons.
This is not the first investigation into the practice. Last year, the FCC issued a $600,000 penalty to Marriott for wi-fi blocking.