Benson Introduces Legislation to Prohibit Hotels from Interfering with Guests’ Wireless Networking Services

Assemblyman Daniel Benson has introduced legislation that would prohibit hotels from interfering with wireless networking services in light of recent attempts by large hotel chains to block guests from using their own wireless Internet devices.

“By blocking a customer’s access to their own private networks, hotels are attempting to limit consumer choice while making a profit,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This bill will prevent hotels from claiming ownership over wireless systems that merely pass through their properties.”

Benson noted that the bill was prompted by a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) investigation, which revealed that Marriott International employees had used containment features of a Wi-Fi monitoring system at a conference held in Nashville, Tennessee to prevent individuals from connecting to the Internet via their own personal Wi-Fi networks, while at the same time charging consumers, small businesses, and exhibitors as much as $1,000 per device to access Marriott’s Wi-Fi network. In October, the FCC levied a $600,000 fine against Marriott for the incident.

The bill (A-4115) would ban any person or hotel from operating any device that blocks or otherwise interferes with someone’s ability to establish or access wireless networking services.

“The whole point of technological advances like Wi-Fi is to allow more people to have access to the internet by generating their own hotspots with their own devices. Any action to block free access not only takes advantage of hotel guests but serves to thwart innovation for the sake of profit by forcing consumers to pay an unfair Wi-Fi charge,” added Benson.

The bill would also find guilty parties liable to a civil penalty of up to $500 for the first offense, and up $1000 for the second and each subsequent offense.

The measure was introduced on Jan. 15 and referred to the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee.