FCC fines WiFi operator $750K for jamming at convention centers

by Steve Blum • , ,

It’s kinda like poisoning your water bottle to make you buy a $10 coke.

The Federal Communications Commission has nailed another company for trying to force people onto its own, very expensive WiFi service by jamming personal hotspots created by mobile phones and cellular wireless routers. Smart City Holdings, which sells WiFi access in convention centers for $80 a day, was fined $750,000 for forcing visitors onto its network. According to the FCC consent decree, it was the result of a complaint…

In October 2014, the Bureau’s Spectrum Enforcement Division undertook the Investigation, which included sending a series of Letters of Inquiry to Smart City and reviewing the company’s written responses. Smart City’s responses revealed that, at several venues where it managed or operated Wi-Fi systems, it automatically transmitted deauthentication frames to prevent Wi-Fi users whose devices produced a received signal strength above a preset power level at Smart City access points from establishing or maintaining a Wi-Fi network independent of Smart City’s network. No evidence was submitted that the deauthentication was done in response to a specifically identified threat to the security of the Smart City network or the network’s users. After learning of the Bureau’s Investigation, also in October 2014, Smart City instructed its Wi-Fi network managers to cease such deauthentication.

It’s the second time the FCC has hit a greedy venue operator with a six figure fine. The first time involved Marriott, which was doing similar mischief in its hotels. The excuse Marriott gave was that it was a security measure, purely for the protection of its valued suckers guests. As the FCC’s investigation of Smart City shows, that explanation is nonsense.