OpryGate? WiFi jammers once the norm at ILTA14 location

OpryGate? WiFi jammers once the norm at ILTA14 location

Although the WiFi jamming complaint against the resort long predated ILTA14, it strikes me as ironic that the Gaylord Opryland hosted ILTA14 (and ILTA11). Surely that’s one group of conference visitors you’d not want to anger.

[eta: further updates to come. Jamming was not in effect at ILTA2014]

Starting with a March 2013 complaint, the FCC was investigating activities at Marriott’s Gaylord Opryland

MARRIOTT TO PAY $600,000 TO RESOLVE WIFI-BLOCKING INVESTIGATION

Hotel Operator Admits Employees Improperly Used Wi-Fi Monitoring System to Block Mobile Hotspots; Agrees to Three-Year Compliance Plan

….

“Consumers who purchase cellular data plans should be able to use them without fear that their personal Internet connection will be blocked by their hotel or conference center,” said Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc. “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. This practice puts consumers in the untenable position of either paying twice for the same service or forgoing Internet access altogether,” he added.

In March 2013, the Commission received a complaint from an individual who had attended a function at the Gaylord Opryland. The complainant alleged that the Gaylord Opryland was “jamming mobile hotspots so that you can’t use them in the convention space.” After conducting an investigation, the Enforcement Bureau found that employees of Marriott, which has managed the day-to-day operations of the Gaylord Opryland since 2012, had used features of a Wi-Fi monitoring system at the Gaylord Opryland to contain and/or de- authenticate guest-created Wi-Fi hotspot access points in the conference facilities. In some cases, employees sent de-authentication packets to the targeted access points, which would dissociate consumers’ devices from their own Wi-Fi hotspot access points and, thus, disrupt consumers’ current Wi-Fi transmissions and prevent future transmissions. At the same time that these employees engaged in these practices, Marriott charged conference exhibitors and other attendees anywhere from $250 to $1,000 per device to use the Gaylord Wi-Fi service in the conference facilities. [emphasis added]

from FCC.gov

3 thoughts on “OpryGate? WiFi jammers once the norm at ILTA14 location”

  • Thank you for the clarifications on your blog post. I wanted to add that this is a difficult issue because we want to protect the freedom for users to enjoy their personal Mi-Fi and hotspot devices. They are often very handy if not crucial at times! But they truly do create an enormous amount of radio interference for other users who are depending on the wireless service provided by the resort, or at the airport or coffee shop. A few hotspot devices can generally coexist without too much harm. But when you get several in the same area, along with a larger number of humans, problems will definitely occur. I mention the latter because the human body will actually soak up and/or impede radio signals, and thus large crowds introduce challenges. And once you add in a half-dozen or more hotspot devices, a large percentage of users will experience very slow Internet access, and/or difficulty connecting, and/or completely unusable service.

    The 802.11 specification for wireless only allows a limited number of radio channels for shared use, and unfortunately, hotspot devices often abuse good manners and they will use overlapping channels, which benefits that sole user but it’s at the expense of everyone else nearby. Imagine trying to carry on an important conversation when someone next to you is literally screaming. That’s not a bad analogy.

  • Correction: Clay Gibney arranged that the resort would conduct no WiFi jamming. However, large numbers of MiFi hotspots did at points interfere with the free WiFi provided by Marriott.

  • Hi Sandy, actually your [original] statements are incorrect. The Opryland resort DID NOT employ any jamming or blocking at ILTA 2014. This was a topic we discussed with the resort before our event occurred in August, and no jamming or blocking was in effect for the ILTA event. Attendees could certainly use their MiFi and portable hotspots at ILTA 2014, but we did ask attendees to refrain because those devices cause significant disruption to the wireless service inside of the resort. Wireless access was free to our attendees, and those who needed to rely on that free service would have been very negatively impacted by widespread use of MiFi and portable hotspot devices, as their use congests multiple channels in the confined radio spectrum, with the result that many would not be able to use the free wireless service that was provided.

    It’s interesting to note that Apple and Google have both had important demos impacted by this issue.

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