One of my law firm partners visited San Francisco this week and was complaining about the fact that she was unable to use her Verizon Hot Spot at her hotel.

“In San Francisco?” I said. “Are you kidding?”  She wasn’t.

Apparently, her hotelier did not receive the message. Wi-Fi blocking is illegal.

Just this week the Federal Communications Commission announced a $750,000 settlement with Smart City Holdings, LLC (and its subsidiaries), a company who provided Wi-Fi services to multiple convention center locations across the US. In an effort to force consumers to use their Wi-Fi services, they blocked all other Wi-Fi access at the convention center locations. This was the second such fine of its kind in the last twelve months. Last year Marriott International paid a $600,000 penalty for doing the same thing.

When it comes to using portable Wi-Fi hotspots, whether for business security or convenience, remember that you and your employees are entitled to do so. And, if the hotel concierge ignores your demands to access, point them to the FCC’s enforcement advisory, which reads: “No hotel, convention center, or other commercial establishment or the network operator providing services at such establishments may intentionally block or disrupt personal Wi-Fi hot spots on such premises, as part of an effort to force consumers to purchase access to the property owner’s Wi-Fi network. Such action is illegal and violations can lead to the assessment of substantial monetary penalties.” Then call the FCC at 1-888-CALL-FCC or visit www.fcc.gov/complaints to report the establishment for their violation.