FCC Takes Important Step to Stop Wi-Fi Jamming

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Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 to issue a proposed fine of $718,000 against M.C. Dean, Inc. for deliberately blocking visitors to the Baltimore Convention Center from using their own Wi-Fi hotspots.

The FCC found that M.C. Dean, Inc. forced exhibitors and visitors to the convention center to use M.C. Dean “authorized” Wi-Fi channels by using Wi-Fi blocking technology. M.C. Dean charged between $795 and $1,095 per day for use of its “authorized” Wi-Fi channels. As the FCC found, M.C. Dean, Inc.’s indiscriminate use of jamming equipment appears to have blocked Wi-Fi outside the Baltimore Convention Center as well.

The following may be attributed to Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge:

“This marks a big victory for all users of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other devices that use unlicensed spectrum. By today’s action, the FCC clarifies that any deliberate interference with Wi-Fi violates the law against deliberately jamming lawful communications. The Commission’s action today will save hotel guests, convention exhibitors, and others dependent on Wi-Fi millions of dollars in overcharges from 'official' hotel and exhibit hall Wi-Fi providers.

“Too often, hotel chains and convention centers have forced hotel guests and exhibitors to pay for overpriced Wi-Fi that runs slower than dial-up by using blocking technology to jam legal Wi-Fi and Mi-Fi devices. These jammers claim blocking Wi-Fi and other unlicensed spectrum users must be legal because Wi-Fi devices must accept interference from other legally operating sources. But as the FCC made clear today, the fact that a Wi-Fi device must accept interference from any device operating legally does not create an exception to the rule prohibiting jamming.”

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