Recently the FCC has put their foot down on the fight over WiFi Blocking in hotels. They have ruled that commercial establishments cannot restrict consumers from using their personal Wi-Fi hotspots. With how important internet access is for travelers these days, hotels caught doing this are subject not only to fines, but also open themselves up to negative reviews and a tarnished public image. So why run this risk in the first place?
For those properties that are still charging for WiFi, guests bringing their own access could diminish a revenue stream, but how many reservations are they losing by not offering free WiFi? Many search sites have the ability to filter out any hotel that doesn’t offer free WiFi, and this is quickly becoming a mandatory requirement for many travelers. A small rate increase across the board would not only cover the cost of the internet used, but generate more revenue from those not using it and offering internet access as a complimentary service can draw in more guests.
In the recent case where Marriott was blocking personal hotspots, they claimed it was an effort to protect their guest’s privacy by removing any suspicious or fraudulent networks operating in the area. Whether or not WiFi security was their actual motive, the threat is a genuine one. With all the personal information stored in a hotel, they are often the targets of identity thieves. Because of this, hoteliers need to take proper precautions to secure their properties and their guest’s information. Unfortunately, these thieves aren’t always going after the hotel’s computers. More often than not, they are targeting the guests’ computers directly. A common tactic they use is to create an unencrypted public hotspot to try and capture personal data from unsuspecting guests who connect accidentally or think it’s secure. Typically, they will name the networks something seemingly innocent, like “Free Public WiFi” or “Lobby WiFi” to try and trick guests. Due to the size of most hotels, multiple access points are required for property wide WiFi. Less sophisticated networks will show each of these points individually and a hacker could easily create their own and mimic the naming conventions. For any property that has a network similar to this, contact your installer and ask about creating a single network. This can help to create a more manageable network, and cut down on a lot of guest confusion.
It’s important for every hotel to monitor what WiFi networks are available in the area and which ones can be trusted. If anything out of the ordinary does show up, it’s better to inform the guests, which networks are safe and avoid any issues. If a guest does become the victim of identity theft while staying in a hotel they may end up blaming the property and leaving negative reviews. With how important a hotel’s reputation, these reviews can be incredibly damaging and take a lot of time to repair.