Pillsbury’s communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month’s issue includes:
- FCC Again Cracks Down on Wi-Fi Blocking at Conference Centers
- Licensee Faces $27,000 Fine for Repeatedly Failing to File Kidvid Reports
- Too Little Too Late: FCC Dismisses as Late (and Meritless) Antenna Structure Owner’s Petition for Reconsideration
Turning Hotspots to Not Spots: Wi-Fi Jamming Costs Service Provider $750,000
A telecommunications and Internet service provider entered into a $750,000 consent decree with the FCC to resolve an investigation into whether the service provider and its subsidiaries engaged in prohibited Wi-Fi blocking. At issue was whether the service provider interfered with and disabled Wi-Fi networks that consumers had established at various conference centers where the service provider operated or managed the Wi-Fi network.
As the FCC noted in its order adopting the consent decree, consumers can establish their own Wi-Fi networks using FCC-authorized mobile hotspots and their wireless data plans to connect their devices to the Internet. Technology exists, however, that can be used to block consumers from creating or maintaining their own Wi-Fi networks. Such blocking violates Section 333 of Communications Act, which prohibits anyone from willfully or maliciously interfering with or causing interference to any radio communications of any station licensed or authorized by or under the Act.
Last June, a company that provides equipment enabling users to establish Wi-Fi hotspots as an alternative to paying for Wi-Fi service provided by the commercial venue lodged an informal complaint with the FCC against the service provider. The complainant alleged that its customers could not connect to the Internet at several convention, meeting, and hotel venues where that particular service provider operated or managed the Wi-Fi access. An FCC Enforcement Bureau investigation confirmed that the service provider automatically transmitted de-authentication frames to prevent certain Wi-Fi users from establishing or maintaining an Internet connection independent of the service provider’s network.
After learning of the investigation, the service provider told its Wi-Fi network managers to stop such de-authentication and subsequently entered into a consent decree with the FCC. To resolve the investigation, the service provider (i) admitted that it prevented certain Wi-Fi users from establishing Wi-Fi hotspots, (ii) agreed to implement procedures to ensure that its personnel will not engage in any Wi-Fi blocking activities going forward, and (iii) agreed to pay a penalty of $750,000 to the U.S. Treasury.
A Math Lesson for the Kids: 4 Stations + 36 Late Filed Children’s TV Programming Reports = $27,000
A Pennsylvania TV licensee received four separate Notices of Apparent Liability in one day, resulting in a total proposed fine of $27,000 for failure to timely file Children’s Television Programming Reports for four of its stations. Continue reading →