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Microsoft teams up with Google to oppose hotels blocking personal Wi-Fi hotspots

Google and Microsoft are joining a wireless industry lobbying group in a bid to oppose a recent hotel industry petition, which seeks the FCC's permission to block personal Wi-Fi networks set up in hotel rooms by customers. The two giant companies may not see eye to eye each day, but they have banded together on topics to represent and protect consumers – this being one of them.

According to the report on Re/code:

This summer, the American Hospitality & Lodging Association and Marriott International asked the FCC to declare that a hotel operator can use equipment to manage its network even if it may result in 'interference with or cause interference' to a [wireless device] being used by a guest on the operator's property.

Hotels argue that they have measures in place to protect customers from "rogue wireless hotspots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber attacks and identity theft". Both Google and Microsoft have asked in a filing to kill the request, noting guests accessing their own Wi-Fi have equal rights to use the unlicensed spectrum.

Source: Re/code

106 Comments
  • This should be a 100% illegal federal crime! I have been using hotspots since they came into being. They are no risk to anything. Besides, there is nothing secure about a public hotspot! What's to stop other business from jamming Optimum type hot spots to "avoid interference" (aka force people to pay for their service)? This is pure greed/stupidity. Nothing more.
  • It's not illegal to jam signals on private property. If you don't agree with it then don't stay at a Marriott.
  • Anonymous, here's your next target. Posted via my "Material Design Modded" Rooted Sprint LG G2. (Rooted Sprint GS3 FreedomPop[MVNO]
    (Stock "Contest Won - Sprint Galaxy Note 4"
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  • Yes let's start hacking everything and everyone we don't agree with. You sir are ridiculous.
  • How do you assure that it does not affect communication in adjacent areas?
    That is illegal.
  • Are you saying it is impossible to not affect adjacent areas? My intent is not to debate potential deployment plans for Marriott in this forum but there is actual research that can be done to see how they can safely cover a hotel floor and still not affect surround buildings/areas.
    There is no sense in going through all that research if the FCC doesn't give their blessing.
  • Yes it is...it is unlicensed spectrum. You can use it how you see fit Posted via the Android Central App
  • Check again, it is not illegal for me to jam wifi signals on my own private property as long as it doesn't affect another property owner near me. You have no legal right to stand on my property and expect your wifi hotspot should work. I would love for you to show me where you think that exists in the legal system.
    I will re-state a comment again for you, your displeasure in something doesn't necessarily make it illegal.
  • No "Oops, my bad" moment once you're proven wrong?
  • Lol Posted via the ACA on NEXUS 6
  • Wow. Ever think of doing a little fact checking before opening your mouth? Section 333 of the Communications Act provides that “No person shall willfully or
    maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications of any station licensed or
    authorized by or under this Act or operated by the United States Government.”2 The Bureau previously
    has indicated that the use of jammers to interfere with Wi-Fi transmissions violates Section 333.3
  • If I remember correctly, this is the same rule that prevents movie theaters, restaurants, and the like from jamming cellphones. I'm pretty certain this has already been upheld in the courts. I don't believe Marriot has a legal leg to stand on. I don't patronize Marriot anyway. Can't get a Bacardi/Coke there. They only have cheap rum and Pepsi.
  • But jamming the RF will stop all wifi from working, even the hotels wifi. They are most likely referring to the deauth feature of wifi network management which can be targeted.
  • http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2014/db1003/DA-1...
  • You sir dont get a cookie, you get an entire box full of cookies for shutting up the ignorant who don't research things before having an "I am right, you are wrong" opinion. Thank you.
  • Actually, yes it is. Laws prohibit jamming anywhere within the United States. http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/jammer-enforcement
  • Actually, all crimes are 100% illegal, whether they are violations of federal title, state statute, or municipal ordinance. So it would be impossible to make this a federal offense without making it "100% illegal."
  • That isn't entirely true. While limited recreational marijuana use may be legal in Colorado and Washington, it is still illegal under federal law..
  • I would have to agree that makes it less than 100% illegal! but still not being 100% legal...
  • It's still 100 percent illegal, as federal law in this area trumps state law the only difference is enforcement of the federal law, which isn't being done in states which pass decriminalization laws to prevent the need for their own police forces from performing enforcement. Even in the absence of a "permitting statute", law enforcement decides what to enforce, not what's legal or illegal.
  • Oh the hotel want to charge you for their crummy over priced Internet and hate the fact that people can use faster and better Internet threw their phones with out paying extra. The hotel request let's face it only a clueless idiot would believe that it is all about security unless that security is about getting more to their bottom line.
  • Its definitely about security. All you have to do is create your own wifi hotspot with the name of the hotel's wifi but don't require a password on it and then do some DNS tricks and make your own webpages for banks and Netflix and you can steal everybody's usernames and passwords. Its really simple and people don't know that they are being hacked.
  • If they were worried about this, they'd be seeking something more limited, ie, blocking WiFi hotspots with the same SSID as their network. They are being vague on purpose.
  • Could you please explain how they could be so precise in blocking only certain hotspots? They would have to block all hotspots except their own or none at all. And even if the bad guy didn't use the hotels wifi name people would still connect to a hotspot that doesn't require a password, because most people are not security conscious.
  • My guess is that they would use a deauth attack to render a specific hotspot (SSID) useless.
    I'm curious though: if it's all or none, how could they exempt their own hotspot? If they can exempt their own, why can't they exempt others until only one isn't exempt, and thus they're blocking only a certain hotspot?
  • They flood all the channels with their hotspot
  • On their server side, they could limit access to certain websites, proxy avoidance sites, things like this Posted via the Android Central App
  • That doesn't stop anybody from having their own wifi hotspot and stealing people's info.
  • That problem exists everywhere you use WiFi access in public. Coffee shops, parks, shopping malls, airports. People can set up phoney hotspots everywhere, not just hotels. If you're stupid enough to transmit important info on unsecured networks, there's not much anyone can do to protect you.
  • Except deauth isn't an attack, it's a feature for managing networks.
  • Bullcaca!
  • Look up wifikill for android. The phone has to be rooted but you can do some crazy stuff when people are connected to your wifi.
  • If that were the case. McDonald's and every store/cafe would be blocking hotspots too.
  • "All you have to do is,..." What you are describing is NOT a simple matter. You're describing a fairly involved and moderately sophisticated hack. This is not something your average random person or persons would be conducting.
    The hotels wish to block WiFi hotspots for one and only one, simple reason. They want you to PAY for their service. A very old story practiced by many businesses on many issues. Same reason that despite perfectly good, usable and integrated Google apps, many phone manufacturers insist on loading phones with their own inferior versions. Same reason Microsoft used to pre-load Windows with certain apps and displayed them prominently on the desktop, in an effort to get people to use and then pay for them. It's all about control and money. It's wrapped up in the guise of "security" though to make it believable, sympathetic and to obfuscate the absolute truth.
  • You are so right Posted via the Android Central App
  • The average person? The average person doesn't steal cars or breaks into houses but we still lock those. Google the app Wifikill. Using just that app you can change what people see on websites. A novice could learn to do some web development and learn about DNS and create their own fake websites. Basically you go onto the "free wifi" Go to Chase.com, but the DNS of the router takes you to Chasehacker.com and it looks just like chase.com and you put in your username and password. Now the bad guy has that info and then he forwards you to the next page of chase.com and you didn't even notice that everything was stolen.
  • Hacking bank websites and the such is not easy. This is what it takes groups of people to do it. If you have to pay for their Web Access and rebroadcast it using a non secure ssid., still doesn't mean it's unsecured. They are the main access point, all your doing is " extending" the original WiFi signal" is all Posted via the Android Central App
  • I don't think you understand. They aren't hacking back websites. The bad guy as an access point and is using a 4G LTE modem or their cellphone to broadcast internet access. They aren't extending anything. They also have modified the DNS of the router so that when you go to chase.com the router takes you to Chasehacker.com and it looks just like chase.com and you put in your username and password. Now the bad guy has that info and then he forwards you to the next page of chase.com and you didn't even notice that everything was stolen.
  • and as I said before the only group who buys the "security" argument I would way say fall under the category of either to stupid or to ignorant to be allowed in on the convocation. I do like the FUD arguments you bring but does not change the fact none of what you said is the reason the hotels want to do this. This is about more profit and over charging.
  • Actually you are the one spreading Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. This whole thing is a none issue. If you have a laptop then just use usb tether. If you are really worried about free wifi then don't stay at those hotels and email them to let them know why you aren't staying there and if there are enough people who do that then those hotels will change their business practices. And the only hotels that still charge for wifi are the ones that rich people go to and can afford it. http://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2014-07-18/which-hotels-are-still-char... And my arguments are very valid. I could learn how to do this in a day. Its very easy.
  • How about working together to stop them blocking cell signals too.
  • That's already illegal. If you have a case of it, bring it up to the FCC and they will deal with it. http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/jamming-cell-phones-and-gps-equipment-ag...
  • If there is a free option available, I can understand the reasoning behind sending de-auth packets to rogue/unknown access point clients, but if you're charging an arm and a leg (or anything) for your own WiFi, I completely agree that it's unethical/should be illegal. I've seen universities do this same thing in their student housing. There were some angry kids/parents who contacted the FCC and got nowhere.
  • So what is the difference between charging for wifi access and not allowing other hotspots and starbucks charging for coffee and not allowing you to bring in your coffee to sell to their customers?
  • The difference is that coffee sales aren't regulated by the federal government, and radio communications are. And blocking radio signals is illegal.
  • It is just like the "resort fee's" charged by hotels which you get nothing for. Just a way to suck some more money out of you. I was recently in a name hotel that had free Wi-Fi and it was so bad it was unusable. But you got an offer every few seconds to upgrade for 9.95 a day to faster Wi-Fi. I stayed on LTE for 3 days,if i go over my 4GB it is only 10.00 per GB so 3 days equals 3 GB I could go over my data limit. . This is a money grab pure and simple.
  • If you want premium features then you must pay for them. It's pretty simple and how the world has worked for quite some time. Offering a free wifi service that is slower than a paid one is not unethical. You may not like it because you are not willing to pay for the faster speeds but that is your choice.
  • BS
  • Well thought out comment, thank you for your contribution to society.
  • Yacoby......offering you WiFi access costs them nothing. They need Web Access to run the hotel. It can be done very securely through their server. They are using security to suck more money. It's not hard to figure out, the writing is on the wall Posted via the Android Central App
  • But if they only have 1gbps of web access and you share that with a hundred people then it won't work very well. They have to increase their throughput speed which does cost them money. You really don't know much about how the internet works do you?
  • You have no concept of anything. Do you think there is unlimited bandwidth in the world? Do you know what bandwidth is? It is quite apparent you are forming your opinion from a consumers point of view and not from a technical point of view.
    I assume you have wifi at home already so why don't you just allow all of your neighbors in range of your router to connect to it and use it for free? You already have it so it's not costing you any additional money per month so there is no reason why all of your neighbors shouldn't be able to use it for free.
  • Your correct, yacoby. It's not unethical. But blocking radio transmission is illegal. Period. Regardless of the morality of it.
  • It's possible the wifi was awful because there were too many hotspots broadcasting from other guests phones. There's a small number of channels for wifi and if too many people are setting up portable hotspots then it's just as if the hotel guests were doing a distributed jamming attack against all wifi in the area.
  • I am surprised the FCC (or whoever enforces it) allows anyone to jam communications like that.
  • Wifi isn't telecommunications.
  • What happens when WiFi calling becomes more prevalent? Would it still not be telecommunications?
  • No because telecommunications is proprietary and wifi is not. And you cannot make any calls ever over wifi. There is no such thing. I know what you are going to say, but,but,but T-mobile has wifi calling and the other cellphone companies are going to follow suit. Except they aren't making calls over wifi. They are making calls over the internet. Wifi and the internet are often linked together as one thing, But they are two very different things. You can have wifi without the internet and even if somebody else were on your wifi, you could not make a "wifi call" to them.
  • Huh? I could have sworn that wifi calling changes audio to digital signals and transmits over a wireless spectrum through wifi standards whereupon it travels to the internet to reach its destination. I mean, I can call using wifi when I'm in a concrete building with no cell signal but when there's working wifi. It's making use of that technology to connect with a router, which goes across fiber or whatever land lines. You say "they're making calls over the internet" as if it was magic that allows the phone to connect to the internet. You make some valid points about how moderately intelligent folks can DNS spoof and make fake websites (though, seriously, that's something that 99% of people can't do - even thoughit's not "hard", don't overestimate people) and other chicanery, but wifi technology IS used to connect to the internet. Otherwise no one would need wifi for anything.
  • 1% of the population is still at least 10 million people in the world that could do that. Sounds like a lot of people to me. Try making a wifi call without internet. All the wifi is doing is transmitting data. Wifi is not a telecommunication, that is all I'm saying.
  • That's getting to an inconvenient level of splitting hairs. Of course 10 million people sounds big until you split them geographically and by probability of them staying at a hotel, and being interested in those sorts of activities. You get into a fairly small number when all factors are taken into account...which no one is going to do because it's a waste of time. And no one said that it's not transmitted over the internet (I believe I said "...whereupon it travels to the internet..."). It was just refuting the statement that wifi is not used. And it's all "just transmitting data", whether we're talking about wifi, bluetooth, radio signals, satellites, fiber optic, copper wire. Telecommunications depends on a variety of technologies, many of which can be used as a substitute for another. On another topic, you are correct that most people who simply MUST use their cell phones can do USB tethering - everyone should have a usb cord for charging anyway, so I think that it should be a non-issue for most people.
  • Wifi is not the internet. Its not telecommunication. Wifi is simply a wireless technology that connects two devices together. It is most commonly used to connect a device to a wireless Access Point that connects to the internet. Wifi calling does not use wifi to make a call. It uses the internet to make a phone call. The device uses wifi to connect to the internet.
  • Thank you for showing you have no idea what you are talking about. The FCC came down on them for this.
  • God, the ignorance of people who don't even bother to research what they're talking about. Look up Section 333 of the federal Communications Act, and prior FCC decisions on how it applies to WiFi. For the TL;DR crowd: Yes, WiFi is telecom, and yes, jamming it violates Section 333. Fact, no opinion.
  • They did not. They got a 600k fine for doing it at one convention.
  • Read the article... they don't allow it, they are ASKING for PERMISSION to START blocking the signals. Actually they are asking for other permission that would/could lead to blocking the signals without recourse. I understand the security issues, I also understand that as a Brand Name you have many liabilities that are out of your control, and you will do almost anything to limit the liabilities, or bring them back into your control. I can see the lawsuit, or the TV news story now "I was using the Hilton WiFi and someone stole all of my money." When the reality is that it is likely a fake WiFi hotspot set up by someone in the parking lot, or another room and they are scamming the hotel guest. If you were the hotel, what would you do? How would you control it?
  • This can be done anywhere there is Public WiFi: anyone could set up a fake hotspot called "Starbucks WiFi" or "Dunkin Donuts WiFi" to steal info. The reason that hotels (and not Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts) are asking for this permission is a money grab. And Marriott has already blocked signals and had to pay a settlement for it:
    http://www.engadget.com/2014/10/05/marriott-settles-hotel-wifi-complaint/ In that article, it says the FCC already declared that personal cellular routers "did not pose a threat" to the hotel or its guests.
  • because people are less likely to banking and other such private things in public at a Starbucks. While in a hotel room they feel more private and secure and are more likely to do that.
  • That's speculation.
  • Really? That is your response? Everything in our lives is speculation. When we sit down on a chair we speculate that it will not break. When you get in your car in the morning to go to work you speculate that your car will turn over. Just because it did yesterday is no guarantee that it will start today. I went to costco from work to pick up my new glasses. I speculated that when I get back to my car it will start up again. It didn't the battery died. So really everything is speculation. However, my speculation of people's internet usage is pretty accurate. Yes of course not 100% because some idiot will use public internet for their personal banking.
  • Another valuable comment, congrats!
  • Easily fixed by making you sign an agreement while checking in that by using wifi in your room you become responsible for any and all cyber theft while a guest on their premises.
  • I always find agreements/signs like this hilarious... "Not responsible for stolen property."
    Does that effectively become a license to steal?
  • No. It means that at some point we as a society need to stop blaming others and accept some amount of responsibility for our own security and safety. Physically, digitally,... while it's not possible to make ourselves 100% safe and secure, there are some basic steps that can be taken to minimize threats and exposure. Before we started dumbing down computers and technology quite so much, you used to have to know some of these things to even use the stuff. While the dumbing down of technology has been a large boon to accessibility, it has inherently made us less safe in the process.
  • So basically what you are saying is that everybody should get a master's degree in computer security? Who will pay for this grad school. I already have student loans and really can't afford another one.
  • That's not how it happens. ...but your right the news would report it like that, because the media plays the dummy role because they assume the audience is brainless. They play on that by saying things as " secure, protection for your kids or the elderly " to sell you a package u don't need. "Security" Sells a lot of crop because it makes you feel safer Posted via the Android Central App
  • Shame, if only they put as much effort into a quality product they wouldn't need to worry about blocking hotspots. Make your network work at decent speeds and don't charge like crazy and problem solved. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Many hotels I've been to have free wifi and require a password. You get the password from the front desk. This way, you know it's not some rogue wifi.
  • So when a bad guy is staying there he has the password and he can create a rogue wifi that uses the same password. That was easy to circumvent.
  • My previous experience at Mariott required my last name and room number for WiFi password, so I don't think bad guy could easily create massive rogue WiFi. While it is still doable when the bad guy targeting specific person.
  • Your right. Or they could just make a hotspot called free Mariott wifi and I am sure many people will connect to it.
  • No its not....don't try to sound intelligent, this statement was very ignorant Posted via the Android Central App
  • Really have you ever tried it? i was just at starbucks and turned on my hotspot on my phone and named it starbucks free wifi and I got 8 people who connected to it. Don't talk about things that you don't have any information on. People are stupid and will connect to anything.
  • Exactly.
  • Should be a no brainer. Its my equipment I use it how I see fit. They just want their $10-15/day/device. So a family of four using a WiFi hotspot on vacation for five days at a Marriott would have to spend $200-$300 extra for wireless. NOT ALL HOTELS charge for wireless, but many do. And the speeds are atrocious. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yes and then they can charge the person in the next room $5 for access to their wifi hotspot. You could make a business just selling hotspot service at hotels you stay at. And then while those people are on your wifi you can watch all their traffic and steal their usernames and passwords for things. While you are at it you can charge people to stay in your hotel room and make your stay there free as long as you are ok sleeping next to strangers. Heck why don't you go to a starbucks and sell your homemade coffee there. I'm sure Starbucks will be ok with that. Especially when they get sued by your victim because you rufeed them with your homemade coffee you were selling it inside their store.
  • I have never been to a hotel that charged by the person or by the device. Maybe I have just not seen it but typically is done by the room and you can connect multiple devices. So it would be an additional $50 - $75 not the inflated numbers you have above.
  • What would be the Wi-Fi penetration of a room-based rogue hotspot? Maybe two or three room radius? Hardly enough to make it worthwhile. This is a money grab, plain and simple. Kudos to Google and Microsoft for putting aside their differences and fighting this evil.
  • Or you could just get a more powerful router and use larger antennas. They aren't very expensive. Nice try though.
  • I don't like Public WiFi. Don't trust it. I have plenty of data on my plan. I would much rather log into a hotspot generated by my phone, one that I can secure. If a hotel is going to force me to use its network, then it must accept ALL liability for any losses through hacking. The option to simply not use the WiFi at all may not be an option for business travelers so don't throw that out there. If I need to use WiFi and can provide my own (more) secure access, then I should be allowed to do so. Hotels can make money off my room charges thank you very much.
  • Why do you need to use your hotspot. Why don't you tether with a wire?
  • Ok, that is a dumb comment/question. You should quit while you have made some decent retorts
  • Its not actually dumb. Why not use USB Tether. If you are using a laptop then it doesn't matter and USB Tether also charges your phone at the same time.
  • Because I use more than one device at a time - I often travel with a work laptop, personal laptop and tablet. Plus the employer's iPhone sometimes wants WiFi to download large updates, so I use my employer's MiFi to do that.
  • Here is the question. How often do you stay at a hotel that charges for wifi?
  • It varies. Most of the places my company wants me to stay have "free' WiFi. Unfortunately, many times the hotel WiFi is flaky or unreliable, or WAY slower that my LTE connections, or has some other weird connection issue. Many will only let you log in with one device during your stay for free and charge extra for multiple devices. It is often faster and easier to use my mobile hotspot(s). The real issue is consumer choice.
  • Anybody able to post a link to the FCC petition so we can comment? Once I get back to a computer, I have some time. Posted from my XT1080M
  • Found it: http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/proceeding/view?name=RM-11737 You can use the "Submit a Filing in RM-11737" link on the page. Looks like you need to write out the comment then upload it as a document.
  • And next the movie & hospitals theaters will ask for it for cell phones. Businesses will want to make sure that rogue employee hotspots aren't running on their networks and want to block those as well. What the hotel industry is asking for should not be allowed for a number of reasons, the least of which is what it does to set a precedent about degrading quality of service of public airwaves.
  • Telecommunications is different because you have to allow 911 access. They will never be allowed to jam cellular service because it could prevent someone from contacting emergency services.
    It is not standard practice to go "Like" an emergency service's Facebook page to ask for police, fire or rescue. Now in the future if that is deemed a critical avenue well then you will see the blocking of any data connection made illegal.
  • Its already illegal to block cellphone airwaves. That is a telecommunications and therefor cannot legally be blocked by a company. Stop your fear mongering and learn something.
  • Yeah, right. Hotels want to help me...sure. Yeah, I believe that. No, this is simply a way to make it so that you cant use WiFi unless you use their WiFi. And the next article will be about how, after prevailing in court, hotels are now doing away with the free WiFi and making it a premium service with a ridicules price tag.
  • This is the same "gotcha by the balls" crap hotels did in the 90's and late 2000's with special "hotel TV's" that purposely had no inputs in the back for YOUR games or entertainment and you had to "rent" theirs (n64 on a coil cord anyone?) Posted via the Android Central App
  • It blows my mind that two people feel the need to argue with just about everyone in the comments section. Not everyone values your opinion as much as you do. You have already made your arguments repeatedly. Drop it. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I always find it interesting that what I consider moderate priced chains such as Choice Hotels, etc they usually have free wifi but when you stay at supposedly nicer chains (Embassy Suites, Hiltons) you have to pay.
  • This should be illegal and so should the blocking of service in hotel rooms. Many hotels appear to stop network access in their rooms but allow it in bar's and meeting areas, some places you have to go outside to use your own paid for service over their usually expensive slow WiFi networks. This kind of thing should be cracked down on hard ! Posted via the Android Central App