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Communications Wireless Networking Your Rights Online

FCC Fines Another Large Firm For Blocking WiFi 138

AmiMoJo writes: Another company is learning about the fine points of Section 333 of the Communications Act, which prohibits willful interference with any licensed or authorized radio communications. This time, M.C. Dean, who provided the Baltimore Convention Center's in-house WiFi service, were caught by the FCC sending deauthentication frames to prevent hotspot users maintaining a connection. The complainant alleged that M.C. Dean's actions were identical to those that had earned Marriott a $600,000 fine only weeks earlier.
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FCC Fines Another Large Firm For Blocking WiFi

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  • FCC Fines (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @09:01AM (#50854897)

    The fine was fined - by the Department of Redundancy Department.

  • Fine
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @09:02AM (#50854913)

    FCC Fines Ralph Fiennes, Larry Fine, and Richard Feynman a Mighty Fine Fine for Blocking WiFine

  • Would a Faraday Cage also get you fined?
    • Not by the FCC. You can still be held accountable for, intentionally preventing 911 calls from inside, if something undue were to happen (assuming this is a public venue).

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This is actually quite true. One of our testing tech employees complained that his cell phone did not work inside our anechoic RF testing chamber (big faraday cage full of RF-absorbing material), and wrote a letter of complaint to the FCC.

        We were found to be in violation of the same act, and were required to install a cellular repeater inside our chamber that must be active any time someone is inside the chamber.

        • by Sique ( 173459 )
          Would it have helped if you provided a desk phone in said room and a big warning label, that mobile phones don't work?
          • Would it have helped if you provided a desk phone in said room and a big warning label, that mobile phones don't work?

            Or just ban mobile phones inside the chamber. They can't not work if they aren't there.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Seriously ? Considering the purpose and nature of the chamber this is a bizzare decision. Was this done at your cost and are there any public records on this ? Interested to see the FCC's reasoning.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Thats baloney. Why do people post made up crap like this? Does it make them feel important? I don't get it.

        • by PPH ( 736903 )

          Simple solution: ban cell phones from the testing chamber. It wouldn't be that unreasonable a move, as cellular signals could interfere with sensitive instrumentation. In fact, ban all non test related electronics from the chamber.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Proof or GTFO. This is so unlikely I can't even imagine why people believe it's true.

        • This is actually quite true. One of our testing tech employees complained that his cell phone did not work inside our anechoic RF testing chamber (big faraday cage full of RF-absorbing material), and wrote a letter of complaint to the FCC.

          We were found to be in violation of the same act, and were required to install a cellular repeater inside our chamber that must be active any time someone is inside the chamber.

          Your immediate follow up should be an FOI request asking the FCC to detail all such provisions of cellular repeaters in their own testing facilities all over America. They'll love that.

  • Fining the fines... News at 11.

  • I think the word you're looking for there is "issues". Thanks for playing.

  • I realize that, in practice, this would probably be a 'watch the world burn' option; but it would be a glorious thing if people who can't obey the rules of operating a Part15 device on the ISM band lost the right to do so, at least for a time sufficient to induce agonized penitence.

    This is shared spectrum, guys, with certain rules to help keep it usable for everyone. If you don't like that; perhaps you'll enjoy only being able to use such dedicated spectrum as you are able to buy or lease for a while. If
    • Yes it is shared spectrum with a number of services, but LICENSED services have priority over UNLICENSENED services.

      So Part 15 devices MUST accept any interference from Part 95 licensed devices. So, if an amateur radio operators who are licensed for part of the 2.4 GHz band which is shared by most WiFi devices wants to operate at high enough power to obliterate WiFi devices around, the Part 15 device operator can gripe and complain, but the FCC won't lift a finger. Generally though, Hams will be very ca

      • This is, indeed, true. In this case, though, the firm being smacked down wasn't operating a licensed service; just a bunch of part 15 wifi APs that had a handy 'illegally interfere with other part 15 devices' button that they decided to press.

        Had they actually been licensed, local wifi users can go cry about it; but these guys seem to have confused 'owning the building' with 'having some special say in local spectrum allocation', which is nonsense, no matter how hard you refer to other users as 'rogue AP
  • ...is for operating system manufacturers and cellphone makers to start making it easier to use Bluetooth tethering. No idea how bad Apple's implementation is, but I know every Android device I've used has either had non-existent support or barely functional implementations that were obviously set up and then forgotten about.

    USB tethering is great when it works too, but that also seems to be rarely implemented these days.

    • On my 3rd nexus device now and BT tethering works just fine.

    • I know every Android device I've used has either had non-existent support or barely functional implementations that were obviously set up and then forgotten about.

      Quit using shitty devices that have been bastardized by the carrier and/or a fuckhead OEM that thinks they need to be a special snowflake.

      My phone runs a pretty much pure build of the Android Open Source Project and all three forms of tethering work great. It even supports USB tethering to WiFi, which I've used to get my desktop online when my switch failed.

      If it's broken on the devices you've used its because someone went out of their way to change it from the stock Android solution and either didn't care

    • This is not a technical problem. Workarounds would also fail if the corporation decided to block Bluetooth.

      The Fine is probably going to solve this. No BT necessary.

    • by Alioth ( 221270 )

      Apple's phones do Bluetooth and USB tethering perfectly acceptably.

    • No idea how bad Apple's implementation is, but I know every Android device I've used has either had non-existent support or barely functional implementations that were obviously set up and then forgotten about.

      Your only experience is with Android devices, which are bad based on your own comment, so you assume that Apple's devices are crap too. You are the perfect definition of a fanboy.

      Fight for your bitcoins! [coinbrawl.com]

    • by rsborg ( 111459 )

      ...is for operating system manufacturers and cellphone makers to start making it easier to use Bluetooth tethering. No idea how bad Apple's implementation is, but I know every Android device I've used has either had non-existent support or barely functional implementations that were obviously set up and then forgotten about.

      USB tethering is great when it works too, but that also seems to be rarely implemented these days.

      Apple's implementation is great. If you have a Mac, you can even initiate the teetering request from the laptop (you must have it active on your phone). If your carrier doesn't support free tethering, you can easily move to one that does (T-Mobile).

      Ive had great experiences with tethering on iOS with an iPhone5 and later and an honest carrier.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    for fining the fine finers have been fined.

  • by DanDs22 ( 4318401 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @09:23AM (#50855099) Homepage
    They blocked wifi from 2012 to 2014, and the estimated sales of this company were over $700 million in 2013. M.C. Dean charged $795 to $1,095 for access to the Wi-Fi it provided depending on whether the services were ordered in advance or on-site..
    • I have a feeling that repeat offenses will grow the fine, eventually leading to prosecution. I think 3/4m is a pretty good deterrent to others. It's kind of a warning shot to other venues that would do the same. Even in this example: I read most of the linked PDF, and the offender fined here stopped blocking wifi 2 months after the FCC fined Marriott. They were still caught.
    • So what we really need is a "treble damages" clause for enforcement, i,e, fine them 3 times the revenue they took in from WiFi while blocking mobile hotspots. I'm pretty sure lots of other venues have had this idea... perhaps we should have a "finder's fee" for people to wander around with a WiFi sniffer and suss out new culprits, shouldn't they get 10% of the fine?
      • I don't like that. That means if I refuse to cave and pay for their Wifi, I've effectively made that $0 damages.

      • What we need is an imprisonment clause, If you as a person take somebodies money illegally you can go to jail, companies want the same rights as individual, they should have the same consequences. If it happens send the responsible person(people) (CEO) to jail, see how fast the accounting, and infringing stops.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      So it's cost of business.

      This isn't going to stop until until executives start getting Aaron Swartzed and get hit with hundreds of years of prison time for thousands of counts of interfering with others' private network and conspiracy to interfere with others' private network.

  • Why Not? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Thunderf00t ( 4313909 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @09:27AM (#50855129)
    From the timing implied, it sounds like the Baltimore Convention Center heard of Marriott's case, looked at the relatively minimal fine involved for how widespread the practice was, and thought, "huh, not a bad idea, really. We could do that." Hopefully, the FCC's fine has enough of a sting to it to make it seem less worthwhile to anyone else considering the practice.
    • This company like Marriott was already doing it and didn't alter their behavior after the Marriott settlement. The FCC is going through their complaint log and verifying if these companies are still dong it (remember the FCC asked people to report it when the Marriott publicity hit). The company didn't stop doing it so they now get fined just like Marriott.

      You shouldn't ascribe to malice what is likely just business momentum. The company was already doing it. There were dozens of electronics suppliers that

  • The tpp will not let the FCC fine an foreign owned event center / hotel as they can calm that it hurts there profit from there paid internet.

  • I wonder, could this law protect us against the telco 5G that is going to come and squash our wifi?

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @09:49AM (#50855307)

    It seems like much of the problem originates from the limited spectrum available to wifi, which makes it hard/expensive to cover large, dense spaces, especially if people are bringing in their own network devices.

    This leads to "rogue ap suppression" which I'd wager is motivated as much by network operators tired of getting screamed at because "the conference room wifi sucks" and thinking that suppressing hotspots will improve it as much as it is by greedy operators who believe that crushing hotspots will improve profits.

    • Yeah, there is really no technical or practical reason for the limited number of channels and the power restrictions on WiFi: there is plenty of unused bandwidth, and with more bandwidth, more power wouldn't be a problem either. The real reason for these limits is probably that if the FCC provided more channels and allowed higher power for WiFi, hotspot services would become viable low-cost competitors to ISPs and cell phone companies, and regulators and politicians don't want that.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      It doesn't help that the WiFi consortium seems to be trying hard to make the problem worse. You have ancient devices still spewing out long slow 802.11b beacons, and newer 802.11n/ac devices using multiple double width channels. And then many of the members of the consortium allow the TX power to be cranked up to 11 by default, for maximum congestion and exacerbation of the hidden transmitter problem.

      This can be mitigated somewhat at large venues by having all the venue's APs use only 802.11n/ac, narrow cha

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        The people who design standards for 802.11 seem to be designing the standard for the apocryphal home user who wants 3l173 5p33d5 in line with Ethernet, doesn't get interference and is too far away from anyone else to be interfering.

        And then enterprise vendors take this standard and want to sell it as if it was purpose-built to blanket 200,000 square feet of space and be usable by 50,000 people simultaneously.

        And then commercial providers want to deploy it as if it was a cellular technology designed to blank

      • Wifi needed a "STFU" addition to the protocol long ago. It's way too late now.

        That'll be in the 802.11/q protocol.

        Oblig XKCD : http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/st... [xkcd.com]

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It seems like much of the problem originates from the limited spectrum available to wifi, which makes it hard/expensive to cover large, dense spaces, especially if people are bringing in their own network devices.

      There's a simple solution to that. Make the wi-fi free, or very low cost to remove the incentive to bring in your own.

      Of course, this hurts profits, which is what really drives this.

      You really think these conventions organizers aren't just money grubbers? It's not just Wi-Fi they're trying to squ

    • Part of the problem is the unlicensed bands need to be coordinated worldwide [wikipedia.org], since people will inevitably carry such devices from one country to another.
    • It seems like much of the problem originates from the limited spectrum available to wifi, which makes it hard/expensive to cover large, dense spaces, especially if people are bringing in their own network devices.

      WiFi has tons spectrum available in the 5GHz band. There's a chicken-and-egg problem of WiFi chipset makers not wanting to spend a few cents to support the higher band while most people remain on 2.4GHz, which then prevents people with 5GHz capable routers from switching to the higher band.

      IEEE sh

    • Being a shared band, with NO ONE having legal priority, there is no such thing as a rouge AP. 'Rogue AP detection' is legal, even though Cisco offers it, 'rogue AP suppression' is not legal in most cases. Only if an AP was doing something illegal could you even consider doing something. Someone using the spectrum space you want (even on your own property) is not illegal so long as they are not trespassing.

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        What cases is suppression legal?

        I could almost by into it being legitimate if the suppressing entity's radios do not radiate off their private, controlled access property and the property is in no way public access.

        Malls, hotels, or other spaces which are privately owned by freely accessible by the public wouldn't be covered by this.

        Although I'd bet that rogue ap suppression gets used all the time by businesses in multi-tenant buildings to suppress wireless activity within range of their radios.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      I guess you've never dealt with these people. They are shooting down anything resembling free WiFi because otherwise, nobody would willingly pay $700 dollars for a couple days worth of WiFi access.

    • by CharlieG ( 34950 )

      Of course there are us hams. Channels 7-12 actually belong to US, and if they start messing with those channels, the local ham can tell THEM to turn off the WiFi...
      That whole part 97 and part 15 deal. Licensed users get priority over unlicensed

  • Compared to what these companies rake in, these fines are meaningless. Either slap them with something that runs in the area of at the very least 5 times what their prospective revenue is (call the IRS and let them "guess" revenues, they're pretty good at it... at least when it comes to guessing high) or simply leave it be.

    Fines that are a penny for ever dollar illegally gotten are cost of operation, not fine.

    • Compared to what these companies rake in, these fines are meaningless. Either slap them with something that runs in the area of at the very least 5 times what their prospective revenue is (call the IRS and let them "guess" revenues, they're pretty good at it... at least when it comes to guessing high) or simply leave it be.

      Fines that are a penny for ever dollar illegally gotten are cost of operation, not fine.

      The goal is not to string up a company to be hanged (i.e., goes bankrupt) because of a ruling enforcement change. The goal is to get them to change behavior and use the news cycle to send a signal to others. Increasing fine amounts or increased enforcement is enough to make it understood to others to follow suit quickly.

      If you push too hard the industry will put their crosshairs on your agency and spend money to simply sink your efforts (lobbyists, "sympathetic" judge, etc).

      • The signal this sends is clear: Do it. Do it and don't even bother to try to hide it.

        The formula for whether a law is heeded is simple: Benefit vs. chance of being caught * fine. And if the fine is already smaller than the benefit, the chance of being caught can be 1, i.e. 100% and it's STILL more profitable to break the law than to heed it.

        As long as this is the case, not breaking the law is something your shareholders would probably want a word with you over.

    • by dotbot ( 2030980 )

      As commented above, see paragraph 39 in the report:

      39. First, to ensure that a proposed forfeiture is not treated as simply a cost of doing business, ...

  • ...are the scum of the earth. Talk about extortion and greed at its finest. They'll be more than happy to sell you internet for a few hundred dollars a day. This makes me so happy to see them get slapped.
  • I've been to a few hotels where I had trouble getting my personal hotspot feature to work, and ended up having to switch to USB tethering to use it. I never really gave much thought to whether the hotel might be at fault; I just chalked it up to "tech shit sometimes breaks" and used an alternative method to just get it done because I had to get online and didn't have all day.

    Of course, this would screw people over who just have a personal hotspot device with no USB capability. Luckily, my phone can do WiFi,

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