COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The company that provides Wi-Fi to the Columbus Convention Center reached a $750,000 settlement with the FCC for blocking personal hot-spots.
According to the FCC, Smart City Holdings LLC blocked personal mobile hots-pots that were being used by convention visitors and exhibitors who used their own data plans rather than paying a large fee.
Smart City charges exhibitors $80 for Wi-Fi services for a single day, the FCC says.
As part of the settlement, Smart City will cease blocking Wi-Fi
“It is unacceptable for any company to charge consumers exorbitant fees to access the Internet while at the same time blocking them from using their own personal Wi-Fi hotspots to access the Internet,” said Travis LeBlanc, Chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau. “All companies who seek to use technologies that block FCC-approved Wi-Fi connections are on notice that such practices are patently unlawful.”
The FCC began investigating after a June 2014 complaint alleging that consumers could not connect to the Internet at several venues where Smart City provided Wi-Fi service.
The investigation revealed Smart City blocked hotspots in Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Orlando, and Phoenix.
This is the FCC’s second major enforcement action regarding Wi-Fi blocking. In October 2014, the FCC fined Marriott International, Inc. and Marriott Hotel Services, Inc. $600,000 for similar Wi-Fi blocking activities at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee.
Smart City released the following statement:
Our goal has always been to provide world-class services to our customers, and our company takes regulatory compliance extremely seriously. We are not gatekeepers to the Internet. As recommended by the Department of Commerce and Department of Defense, we have occasionally used technologies made available by major equipment manufacturers to prevent wireless devices from significantly interfering with and disrupting the operations of neighboring exhibitors on our convention floors. This activity resulted in significantly less than one percent (1%) of all devices being deauthenticated and these same technologies are widely used by major convention centers across the globe as well as many federal agencies.
“We have always acted in good faith, and we had no prior notice that the FCC considered the use of this standardized, ‘available-out-of-the-box’ technology to be a violation of its rules. But when we were contacted by the FCC in October 2014, we ceased using the technology in question.
“While we have strong legal arguments, we’ve determined that mounting a vigorous defense would ultimately prove too costly and too great a distraction for our leadership team. As a result, we’ve chosen to work cooperatively with the FCC, and we are pleased to have resolved this matter. We are eager to return our energies to providing leadership to our industry and delivering world-class services to our clients.”