The Marriott has been fined $600,000 by the FCC for paralyzing guests' personal Wi-Fi hotspots, forcing them to use the hotel giant's expensive network instead.
The US watchdog today said the Marriott Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee, used monitoring equipment to illegally boot hotel and convention center guests off their own networks, which were typically smartphone hotspots.
Meanwhile, Marriott managers encouraged everyone to connect to the hotel's Wi-Fi network, which cost from $250 to $1,000 to access.
According to the commission, the Gaylord Opryland installed some mystery equipment and configured it to continually flood the surrounding ether with de-authentication packets. An attacker does not have to know a Wi-Fi network's password, or be authenticated in any way, to send a successful de-auth packet. All devices and computers that receive the management frame over the air are instructed to disassociate from their network.
Essentially, it was virtually impossible to use Wi-Fi, unless it was the Marriott's.
"It is unacceptable for any hotel to intentionally disable personal hotspots while also charging consumers and small businesses high fees to use the hotel’s own Wi-Fi network," said FCC enforcement bureau chief Travis LeBlanc.
"This practice puts consumers in the untenable position of either paying twice for the same service or forgoing internet access altogether."
The fine is part of a consent decree [PDF] Marriott has signed in order to end the watchdog's investigation into Wi-Fi jamming. Marriott has also agreed to send a report on its Wi-Fi "containment functionality" tools to the commission.
The Marriott, in a statement, said: "Like many other institutions and companies in a wide variety of industries, including hospitals and universities, the Gaylord Opryland protected its Wi-Fi network by using FCC-authorized equipment provided by well-known, reputable manufacturers. We believe that the Gaylord Opryland's actions were lawful." ®