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The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday issued a public enforcement advisory that warns hotel chains and other commercial establishments about intentionally blocking or interfering with Wi-Fi hotspots. The FCC's Enforcement Bureau claims that interfering with Wi-Fi hotspots is illegal and that it will take appropriate action against violators by imposing substantial fines.

instanthotspot.jpg
The warning follows an FCC investigation in which the government agency discovered a so-called "disturbing trend" where hotels and other commercial establishments were purposefully blocking wireless customers from connecting to their Wi-Fi hotspots. Marriott Hotels was found to have "deployed a Wi-Fi deauthentication protocol" to block customers from accessing Wi-Fi and agreed to pay a $600,000 fine.

iPhone users have long resorted to Personal Hotspot to turn their cellular data connection into a Wi-Fi network for the purpose of tethering a Mac or other connected device. Apple made Personal Hotspot more convenient in iOS 8 with Instant Hotspot, a new feature that automatically detects when an iPhone is within close range of an iPad or Mac and displays the device in the list of available Wi-Fi networks.

Article Link: FCC Warns Hotels About Intentionally Blocking Wi-Fi Hotspots
 

HackerJL

macrumors regular
Sep 19, 2009
212
62
You'd think it would alleviate their WIFI congestion a bit. But nooo, the almighty dollar wins again. Overpriced dollar that is. Hotel Wifi is crazy expensive for what you get (most of the time)
 
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C DM

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Oct 17, 2011
51,388
19,440
The practice was quite shady to begin with, hopefully it will be a thing of the past very soon.
 
Comment

ArtOfWarfare

macrumors G3
Nov 26, 2007
9,122
5,084
I would rather if the free market had just taken care of this, but since that wasn't happening, I'm glad the FCC stepped in.
 
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Imory

macrumors 6502a
Feb 2, 2013
798
279
Wonderland
The practice was quite shady to begin with, hopefully it will be a thing of the past very soon.

It should be downright illegal. I've never really understood the regulations and rules users need to adjust too regarding hotspots. Luckily we don't have any of that in Europe. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't carriers try to add additional fees for using the hotspot functionality in the iPhone, which is a feature that comes with the phone?
 
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solamar

macrumors regular
Dec 30, 2008
179
72
It should be downright illegal. I've never really understood the regulations and rules users need to adjust too regarding hotspots. Luckily we don't have any of that in Europe. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't carriers try to add additional fees for using the hotspot functionality in the iPhone, which is a feature that comes with the phone?

Sprint still charges extra.. Technically, it should just be however much bandwidth you've paid for, used as hotspot or not..

The only exception I'd ever accept is in a situation like T-Mobile. Where they offer Unlimited data plans, but only for the smartphone.. The Unlimited plans include tethering, but cap tethering at 5GB in the unlimited plan. You can purchase more tethering bandwidth if needed... It's just not unlimited.
 
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oneMadRssn

macrumors 603
Sep 8, 2011
5,494
12,740
Europe
It should be downright illegal. I've never really understood the regulations and rules users need to adjust too regarding hotspots. Luckily we don't have any of that in Europe. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't carriers try to add additional fees for using the hotspot functionality in the iPhone, which is a feature that comes with the phone?

It is downright illegal. The problem is there isn't really a good way of accurately reporting a hotel for doing this. The FCC should make an app that allows a user to voluntarily upload their wifi connection logs and report a hotel for doing this.
 
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2457282

Suspended
Dec 6, 2012
3,327
3,014
Hotel companies originally signed deals with vendors to wire thier hotels and provide wifi essentially free. The vendor, in return, got exclusive rights to gain revenue from people connecting to the network. At lower priced hotels, due to competition, the hotels eat the cost and give you free internet access. But at higher end hotels, they still charge for access and probably due to the commitment to the vendor instituted these shady practices to ensure they were driving enough revenue to meet committment. (disclosure - I have some insider information on this, although part of my comments are speculation based on the facts that I know).

This is also true about the TV. It is killing their revenue when folks attach a chrome cast or Roku stick and stream their own movies instead of purchasing in-room movies.

Hotels used to make money from phones and TVs. As phone revenue went away, internet revenue helped. Now they are getting little revenue from TV, Phone, or Internet. They will need to find another way to make money (maybe raising room rates).
 
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Imory

macrumors 6502a
Feb 2, 2013
798
279
Wonderland
Sprint still charges extra.. Technically, it should just be however much bandwidth you've paid for, used as hotspot or not..

The only exception I'd ever accept is in a situation like T-Mobile. Where they offer Unlimited data plans, but only for the smartphone.. The Unlimited plans include tethering, but cap tethering at 5GB in the unlimited plan. You can purchase more tethering bandwidth if needed... It's just not unlimited.

I like the things I've heard from T-Mobile, but no carrier has any reason whatsoever to determine how I use my data. Tethering (hotspot) is a feature within your phone, as much as any other app or functionality. It's ludicrous for them to charge additional fees for a feature which is a part of your phone. Like Kodak taking a royalty for every picture you take.

It is downright illegal. The problem is there isn't really a good way of accurately reporting a hotel for doing this. The FCC should make an app that allows a user to voluntarily upload their wifi connection logs and report a hotel for doing this.

I guess you're right. That's simply bizarre. How do they actually do it though? To slow down tethering without interfering the network speed of your phone if you're simply browsing by your carrier, without tethering?
 
Comment

CFreymarc

Suspended
Sep 4, 2009
3,969
1,149
You'd think it would alleviate their WIFI congestion a bit. But nooo, the almighty dollar wins again. Overpriced dollar that is. Hotel Wifi is crazy expensive for what you get (most of the time)

Not to mention security issues. Unless you are tunneling via a VPN, connectivity via hotel WiFi has a security community reputation for Man in the Middle attacks.

Do avoid this, my typical use in hotels is turning on my iPhone HotSpot and connecting it into my laptop via USB. Thus no WiFi bridge.
 
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SoAnyway

macrumors 6502
May 10, 2011
477
181
I would rather if the free market had just taken care of this, but since that wasn't happening, I'm glad the FCC stepped in.


Your precious "free market" is a myth. Hence, why the government steps in to save the day, as usual. :rolleyes:
 
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kingtj

macrumors 68030
Oct 23, 2003
2,606
747
Brunswick, MD
Actually, it depends on what's congested.

Not trying to stick up for the hotel's practice of jamming wi-fi that's not their own officially provided one ... but there is a real problem of getting too many wireless hotspots and access points in the same area.

Wi-fi standards only give you a very limited number of frequencies to transmit on. (They say 10 channels, typically, for 2.4Ghz wireless "g" or "n" -- yet they really only have 3 different frequencies. The rest of the "channels" overlap combinations of the 3 frequencies in various ways).

The best solution would really be if the hotels would go back to offering wired ethernet jacks in the rooms and encouraging their use. (I've found some hotels still do, but they seem to be almost forgotten about. They talk about using their wi-fi in all of the instruction cards in the rooms and so forth, but if you plug into the ethernet jack still hidden by where the phone plugs in - you get an excellent connection.)


You'd think it would alleviate their WIFI congestion a bit. But nooo, the almighty dollar wins again. Overpriced dollar that is. Hotel Wifi is crazy expensive for what you get (most of the time)
 
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netslacker

macrumors 6502
Jan 21, 2008
285
50
I would rather if the free market had just taken care of this, but since that wasn't happening, I'm glad the FCC stepped in.

There is no free market in hotel wifi. It's not like I can decide to not use their wifi and jump on the next wifi on the list. I'm trapped and they know it, that's why they want to kill hotspots to force you onto their crappy wifi at a fee.
 
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FaustsHausUK

macrumors 6502
Mar 11, 2010
423
852
Chicago, IL
I would rather if the free market had just taken care of this, but since that wasn't happening, I'm glad the FCC stepped in.

What people like Marriott were doing _is_ the free market: unchecked and unregulated, corporations will do absolutely everything they can to squeeze extra dollars out of consumers, including shady nonsense like this, because they can get away with it.

This is an area where free market competition can't really do anything. What Marriott were doing was illegal, but it was not the core product they were offering - their rooms are - and due to their locations and the ongoing demand for hotel rooms in general, I presume many people just did without Internet while staying with them rather than going somewhere with free Wi-Fi.
 
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ptb42

macrumors 6502a
Oct 14, 2011
703
184
How do they actually do it though? To slow down tethering without interfering the network speed of your phone if you're simply browsing by your carrier, without tethering?

It's done by transmitting a DEAUTH packet to the hotspot and the device connected to the hotspot, breaking the connection. You have to spoof the MAC addresses, so that the targets think the packet is being transmitted from the other side of the conversation.

This is actually a feature in enterprise-grade Cisco wireless networks. However, it warns that using the feature may be illegal in your jurisdiction.

Marriott's original defense was that their networking gear was FCC Type accepted, with that feature included. So, they should be able to use it. But, as I noted above, the administrative interface explicitly warns about the legality.

----------

Not to mention security issues. Unless you are tunneling via a VPN, connectivity via hotel WiFi has a security community reputation for Man in the Middle attacks.

Do avoid this, my typical use in hotels is turning on my iPhone HotSpot and connecting it into my laptop via USB. Thus no WiFi bridge.

I use my own OpenVPN server whenever I am connected to a hotel WiFi. But, I've found them to be painfully slow, most of the time.

The iPhone supports tethering via USB and Bluetooth. But, it can also be very slow, compared to WiFi.
 
Comment

Imory

macrumors 6502a
Feb 2, 2013
798
279
Wonderland
It's done by transmitting a DEAUTH packet to the hotspot and the device connected to the hotspot, breaking the connection. You have to spoof the MAC addresses, so that the targets think the packet is being transmitted from the other side of the conversation.

This is actually a feature in enterprise-grade Cisco wireless networks. However, it warns that using the feature may be illegal in your jurisdiction.

Marriott's original defense was that their networking gear was FCC Type accepted, with that feature included. So, they should be able to use it. But, as I noted above, the administrative interface explicitly warns about the legality.

How is that even legal or useful for consumers or enterprise? To jam or disrupt wireless-signals? Sounds like the first steps to digital warfare (exaggeration).
 
Comment

ptb42

macrumors 6502a
Oct 14, 2011
703
184
I would rather if the free market had just taken care of this, but since that wasn't happening, I'm glad the FCC stepped in.

This has nothing to do with the "market". The Wi-Fi band was expressly created for everyone, as long as they abide by the rules for access.

Marriott was intentionally interfering with other users, denying them access to something they were required by law to share. Their reasons may have been financial, but there are many businesses that are still doing the same thing for non-financial reasons. It's still illegal.

----------

How is that even legal or useful for consumers or enterprise? To jam or disrupt wireless-signals? Sounds like the first steps to digital warfare (exaggeration).

I believe that Cisco's original intent was to detect and disable rogue access points. If someone buys a common consumer AP, takes it into their employer's building, and plugs it into the wired network at their office desk, it's a real security problem.

However, that doesn't make it legal: the proper response to detecting a rogue access point is to disable it on the "wired" side, by blocking the MAC address. However, this is much more difficult.

This feature pre-dated the wide availability of wireless hotspots. I don't think that Cisco realized (at the time) that it would interfere with legitimate users sharing the same "space".
 
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nburwell

macrumors 603
May 6, 2008
5,011
1,928
DE
My experience is that the pricey hotel wifi is PAINFULLY slow and useless most times. This has been with major chains.

I've had the same experience. It's so painfully slow that I usually just turn wifi off and use cellular data. Oh, and forget about streaming Netflix/Hulu either.

I will say that a few Best Western Hotels that I have stayed at recently in both LA and upstate NY had pretty decent speeds. Not to mention the wifi was free too.
 
Comment

B4U

macrumors 68030
Oct 11, 2012
2,894
2,856
Undisclosed location
Hotel companies originally signed deals with vendors to wire thier hotels and provide wifi essentially free. The vendor, in return, got exclusive rights to gain revenue from people connecting to the network. At lower priced hotels, due to competition, the hotels eat the cost and give you free internet access. But at higher end hotels, they still charge for access and probably due to the commitment to the vendor instituted these shady practices to ensure they were driving enough revenue to meet committment. (disclosure - I have some insider information on this, although part of my comments are speculation based on the facts that I know).

This is also true about the TV. It is killing their revenue when folks attach a chrome cast or Roku stick and stream their own movies instead of purchasing in-room movies.

Hotels used to make money from phones and TVs. As phone revenue went away, internet revenue helped. Now they are getting little revenue from TV, Phone, or Internet. They will need to find another way to make money (maybe raising room rates).
The hotels screw with the TV hardware so much that my PS3 cannot connect to it at all...even I have brought HDMI, component, composite, and S-video connections.
I ended up bringing the Hori LCD monitor every single time.
 
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