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Wifi & Hotspots: How FCC Decision Impacts Meetings

Wifi & Hotspots: How FCC Decision Impacts Meetings

Over the last several months, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and Marriott International have been battling over the ability for a hotel to jam or block personal wifi hotspots. The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), Google and Microsoft also weighed in on this issue.

What are the net results and how will FCC’s decision impact the future of Wifi hotspots at meetings?

On February 3rd, the FCC put their proverbial foot down by issuing a formal Enforcement Advisory that prohibits hotels from interfering or blocking personal hotspots. Upon review of this Advisory, Marriott and AH&LA formally withdrew their petition that was seeking the use of Wi-Fi blocking technology.

The FCC’s Point of View

The FCC feels that hotel guests, exhibitors and attendees have every right to use their own hotspot rentals even if it means impacting the infrastructure’s wireless internet performance as well as impacting their privacy and security due to the prevalence of hotel hackers.

“The Communications Act prohibits anyone from interfering with authorized radio communications, including Wi-Fi. Marriott’s request seeking the FCC’s blessing to block guests’ use of non-Marriott networks is contrary to this basic principle,” stated Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the FCC.

AH&LA’s Point of View

“With some 5 million people checking into hotels every day, protecting their sensitive data is our top priority, as is providing a safe and secure wireless internet connection. With 42 million cybersecurity incidents reported last year – a 50% increase over the year before – our industry will work swiftly to determine solutions that protect our customers and give them peace of mind when they access the Internet,” stated Katherine Lugar, President and CEO at American Hotel & Lodging Association.

In fact, AH&LA is establishing a cybersecurity task force aimed at developing solutions that will protect meeting attendees and guests’ privacy while allowing them to use their own MiFi device.

Marriott’s Point of View

After paying $600,000 to the FCC for blocking MiFi (a personal wifi hotspot) on the trade show floor at a hotel Marriott manages in Nashville, they petitioned the FCC to change the Communications Act so they could block personal Wi-Fi devices in conference spaces. They stated they were protecting their guests from cyberattacks and protecting the integrity of their wireless internet infrastructure – especially in the arena of speed.

After receiving many negative comments on social media about their intentions, Marriott backed down and withdrew their petition.

What Does This All Mean for Planning a Meeting?

First and foremost, you need to understand the Wi-Fi capabilities and costs at the hotel you will be holding your conference at. Will bandwidth be dedicated to your event or will you be sharing it with everyone at the hotel? What sorts of security measures are in place to protect your attendees from identity theft? How will the hotel staff measure peak usage? What will the costs be to utilize the Internet fully?

Second, determine your wifi needs by looking at your conference apps and how attendees will be using the Internet. Obviously, live streaming of video can be a greater burden on the bandwidth than posting a tweet. So, make sure you know how many devices your attendees and exhibitors are bringing and how they plan on using them.

Third, if it looks like Wi-Fi is going to be limited, consider WiFi Hotspot rental units from your event rental supplier. Providing fast, robust and secure hotspots will keep both hotel staff and attendees happy — as the number one complaint from most hotel guests is slow or inaccessible Internet service.

Hartford Technology Rental Is Your Wireless Internet Vendor

If you need wireless hotspot rentals and the latest technology to create an interactive experience at your events, partner with Hartford Technology Rental. We will work with you to provide you the right configuration to make your event memorable. Call us at 888-520-5667 or Contact Us online today!