We’ve all been ripped off when paying for wifi. But now, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is cracking down on companies that block you from using anything but their exorbitantly priced services. The agency just slapped a company with a $750,000 fine for blocking wifi hotspots at convention centers.
The company in question is Smart City Holdings. “Founded in the basement of the Houston Astrodome,” Smart City provides telecom services to convention centers all over the country and charges an insulting $80 fee for a single day of wifi service. To make matters worse, Smart City screwed over people who tried to get around the high fee by using a personal hotspot—the FCC caught the company using a wifi monitoring system to block hotspots that attendees tried to use to provide their own wifi. That’s pretty rude, and it’s also illegal. Now, Smart City will be the one paying.
“It is unacceptable for any company to charge consumers exorbitant fees to access the Internet while at the same time blocking them from using their own personal Wi-Fi hotspots to access the Internet,” the FCC’s Travis LeBlanc said in a statement. “All companies who seek to use technologies that block FCC-approved Wi-Fi connections are on notice that such practices are patently unlawful.”
The fine comes less than a year after the FCC issued a similar penalty to Marriott for blocking guests’ wifi hotspots. It also continues the agency’s newfound tradition of kicking ass and helping more Americans access the internet without getting ripped off. That’s progress!
Update (08.20.2015): Smart City reached out to us after news of the fine made headlines and clarified the situation. The company said in statement, “Smart City did not admit liability, and the FCC did not find that Smart City violated any laws.”
“We have always acted in good faith, and we had no prior notice that the FCC considered the use of this standardized, ‘available-out-of-the-box’ technology to be a violation of its rules,” said Smart City chief executive Mark Haley. “But when we were contacted by the FCC in October 2014, we ceased using the technology in question.”
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