“In the 21st Century, Wi-Fi represents an essential on-ramp to the Internet. Personal Wi-Fi networks, or “hot spots,” are an important way that consumers connect to the Internet. Willful or malicious interference with Wi-Fi hot spots is illegal. Wi-Fi blocking violates Section 333 of the Communications Act, as amended.1 The Enforcement Bureau has seen a disturbing trend in which hotels and other commercial establishments block wireless consumers from using their own personal Wi-Fi hot spots on the commercial establishment’s premises. As a result, the Bureau is protecting consumers by aggressively investigating and acting against such unlawful intentional interference.”
The Federal Communications Commission seems to have ended the questions that have been swirling for months about whether hotels or other facilities can block personal Wi-Fi networks with this advisory that was released at the end of January.
We recognize that this is a good thing overall. But for some of our clients, it is causing a bit of a dilemma.
Here’s the scenario: we plan events that include exhibition space with dozens or even hundreds of exhibitors. In the past, many exhibitors have opted not to purchase the Internet package offered as a booth add-on, and instead, brought their own Wi-Fi devices, which caused significant issues for our client.
You may think that the issues stem from the loss of revenue by not being able to recoup the dollars invested in offering Wi-Fi to exhibitors, but this was the furthest thing from our minds.
Our clients invest in the same Internet package regardless of how many exhibitors opt-in to it, because the same network is available to all conference attendees as well.
The issues occurred when attendees were not able to reliably access the WiFi network in which our client had invested tens of thousands because of interference from all of the exhibitor WiFi devices. An option we previously had available to us was to block these devices so that our network could function properly, but that’s off the table now.
So, the question remains, what to do when the freedom of exhibitors to bring their own WiFi devices interferes with our attendees’ ability to access the WiFi network the conference provides for them at no charge?
We are currently working through this scenario with a few clients – stay tuned for updates in the coming months!