Forget the hotel Wi-Fi. Now that the Federal Communications Commission is cracking down on hotels and other businesses trying to force you to use their networks, it's time to consider a more secure way to connect to the Internet.
The FCC warned businesses Tuesday that Wi-Fi blocking violates the Communications Act, and it's an illegal move that it will be "aggressively investigating."
"Protecting consumers from this kind of interference is a priority area for the FCC enforcement bureau," said Chairman Tom Wheeler in a statement.
Wi-Fi blocking made headlines last October, after Marriott International agreed to pay a civil fine of $600,000 to resolve such an FCC probe. The investigation found that employees at Marriott's Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee, had prevented guests from connecting to the Internet via their own Wi-Fi hotspots, while charging them for access to the hotel's network.
According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, just 11 percent of hotels charge for in-room Internet access, down from 23 percent in 2012. Fees can vary widely, with prices starting as low as $4 per day, or ranging up to $25 as part of a broader resort fee.
Some properties offer basic access for free, with a charge for more bandwidth; at Marriott, Rewards club members get free basic access and can pay $5 to $7 per day, depending on the market, for premium access.
The hotel group later petitioned the FCC for the ability to block guests' personal Wi-Fi. "Marriott has a strong interest in ensuring that when our guests use our Wi-Fi service, they will be protected from rogue wireless hot spots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyberattacks and identity theft," it said in a statement after the October ruling.