Louisiana Bill Prevents Wi-Fi Hotspot Blocking

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By Nushin Huq

June 3 —Convention centers and hotels would face stiff fines for blocking mobile phones used as personal Wi-Fi hotspots, forcing individuals to purchase Internet access through the venue, under a bill passed June 3 by Louisiana's legislature.

The bill, S.B. 251, which passed both chambers unanimously, would make it illegal to intentionally interfere with, prevent, disable or block a person’s ability to use a personal Wi-Fi hotspot. The bill would impose a fine for up to $10,000 for each day a violation occurs.

The bill was sent to Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his signature. If the governor signs the bill, the law will take effect Aug. 1.

Consumers who purchase cellular data plans should be able to use them without fear that their Internet connection will be blocked at locations such as conference centers, hotels or trade shows, the bill said.

The proposed law has similar language to a Federal Communications Commission enforcement advisory, released in 2015, which said blocking access to someone's personal hotspot is illegal. The FCC issued the advisory after seeing a trend of hotels blocking personal hotspot access.

“Such action is illegal and violations could lead to the assessment of substantial monetary penalties,” the FCC said.

But the state law adds another avenue for people to seek enforcement, Kenton Hutcherson, a Dallas-based attorney specializing in Internet law, told Bloomberg BNA June 3.

“The FCC has a lot on its plate,” Hutcherson said. “So while the FCC can say this is illegal, it’s hard to get them to enforcement actions quickly.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Nushin Huq in Houston at nhuq@bna.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joseph Wright at jwright@bna.com

For More Information

Full text of S.B. 251 at http://src.bna.com/fAz.

Text of the FCC advisory is available at http://src.bna.com/fAJ.