back to article Did last night's US presidential debate Wi-Fi rip-off break the law?

The host of the first presidential debate on Monday night, Hofstra University in New York, may have broken the law and could be in line for a huge fine. Reporters at the event were appalled to find that among the heavily marked-up items they were offered – $150 to rent a lamp, anyone? – was a $200 charge for a "secure wireless …

  1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Lets hope they get soundly spanked for this - as it is exactly the same principle as the hotel's gouging.

    If would be more sympathetic if they had offered all attendees free use of a professional capacity Wi-Fi service they had and politely asked not to interfere thank-you very much, but they did neither.

    1. RealityisntReal

      It cost them money to create that "professional capacity" wifi system. Why exactly do you not think they are entitled to attempt to recover at least a part of that expense? You think all that access is created for free? And no - this is not the same as the hotel. The hotel actively blocked access, here they simply told people to use their access or leave. That's their right - they owned and controlled the venue.

      1. Ole Juul

        fail

        "It cost them money to create that "professional capacity" wifi system."

        But as it turns out it wasn't actually professional capacity.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Pfff

          "Why exactly do you not think they" are as corrupt as the politics they are hosting?

          For news at 11: Cannibals eat cannibals.

      2. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Why exactly do you not think they are entitled to attempt to recover at least a part of that expense?

        Er... they didn't provide the service they had charged for and they disallowed the use of alternatives. Dunno about USia, but there's places in the world where you might expect to be refunded the cost of the promised service not being provided and a bit extra for disallowing alternatives.

      3. andrewj

        Your post is, just Fail

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "It cost them money to create that "professional capacity" wifi system. Why exactly do you not think they are entitled to attempt to recover at least a part of that expense?"

        Because: a) they didn't create a "professional capacity" system, since it failed at its purpose, b) if so people many were accessing their own hotspots they they needed to charge $200 to scrape back costs, they either sucked at creating it at a reasonable budget or created a system nobody needed and c) at least some of the costs were the people they hired to shake down those who didn't wish to use their service.

        Most importantly, no matter what the MPAA tells you, nobody's entitled to a guaranteed profit in a capitalist system. If you create a product or service nobody wants to use, that's on you. If you overcharge and people baulk at it, they're free not to pay you unless they "steal" your product or service (not the case here, they simply used a competing service, which is their right in a free market). You don't get to round up a gang of thugs to shakedown anyone nearby for your protection racket unless you're in the mafia.

    2. taxythingy

      Nope. Not the same principle.

      Marriott's were spanked for mis-using the spectrum by deliberately making it unusable. Right up FCC's alley and very cane-worthy.

      Here they were asking people not to use other WiFi. Private property and entry by agreement with T&Cs only. It is likely within their rights to do this.

      I still think they are greedy unprintables, though.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Here they were asking people not to use other WiFi. Private property and entry by agreement with T&Cs only. It is likely within their rights to do this.

        Nope. The federal ruling addressed this. Is it NOT their right to block access of a legitimate alternative service that a customer has paid for. Just as it is against federal law to "jam" radio waves.

        1. Schultz
          Stop

          Just as it is against federal law to "jam" radio waves.

          Wow, 'free radio waves'. Next thing you'll tell me that I can't charge you for the oxygen from my living-room ficus tree. Communism, here we come!

          1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

            "I can't charge you for the oxygen from my living-room ficus tree"

            No, you can't. Welcome to communism.

      2. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

        Nope. Not the same principle.

        Marriott's were spanked for mis-using the spectrum by deliberately making it unusable. Right up FCC's alley and very cane-worthy.

        Here they were asking people not to use other WiFi. Private property and entry by agreement with T&Cs only. It is likely within their rights to do this.

        I still think they are greedy unprintables, though.

        This.

        It was ruled that it was against the law to jam wi-fi signals, but that doesn't necessarily stop them from enforcing their T&Cs (which the attendees agreed to) and throwing people out who are breaking them.

        Incidentally, I do wonder if the same would be true of an attendee using bluetooth or USB tethering, or a USB dongle. In my mind, stopping people from using their own wi-fi hotspot can be justified. I have seen first hand (at a trade show) how much it sucks when everyone sets up their own wi-fi: They all overlap with each other, and none of them work, even the venue's, so they are protecting the quality of service of their own infrastructure by banning it. However, using BT/USB tethering should not* interfere with the venue-provided service, so there is no such justification and it would just be pure gouging.

        * I am aware BT and wi-fi both use the 2.4GHz band, but am yet to see an instance where BT has interfered with wi-fi. If I'm wrong, I'm happy to be corrected.

  2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Facepalm

    So...

    You host a "presidential debate" (of course, lesser party candidates can't even get a debate, tells you about how genetically engineered and hormone-injected this kind of cash-generating bullshit is, not more than a presidential "loft story") and you don't even have an ethically adequate "operating manual", either written by yourself and generally agreed upon or else rammed up your backside to follow under pain of lawsuit?

    The land of the free-for-all.

  3. jamesb2147

    Grandstanding and fear mongering

    The FCC's authority over WiFi comes from the airwaves, which are a public resource/commons. They have no authority over private agreements.

    The *ONLY* reason Marriott was made to pay a fine was that its particular method of stopping people from using hotspots was to spam spoofed deauth packets over the wireless. It is illegal to operate a device that interferes with other users in the 2.4/5GHz unlicensed spectrum in the United States, and the FCC is the public agency tasked with ensuring that devices and their operators comply with these rules, which are basically grounded in a combination of ancient public policy theory (unlicensed spectrum is a commons) and technical operational theory (no device should interfere with any other device's use of the spectrum, as far as that is technically possible).

    Going around, passively sniffing the wireless, and asking users to leave? Not the purview of the FCC. Also note that this is a hell of a lot more work, requires training, doesn't fix poorly planned WiFi deployments, and is expensive.

    Perhaps we will see venues start to adopt this. My guess is that we won't. Sending out deauth packets is a feature often included for free as a setting in a WLC. Procuring specialty equipment, training security or other enforcement personnel how to use it, staffing events to enforce the ban, and hiring lawyers to write it into the contract to cover asses appropriately are all vastly more expensive than a free feature in a WLC.

    So Kieren, I hope you choke a little on your mild outrage soup. You might see this occasionally at high profile events with extremely pricey WiFi, but otherwise, the juice just isn't worth the squeeze.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Grandstanding and fear mongering

      You are seriously... wrong.

    2. Schultz
      Stop

      Re: Grandstanding and fear mongering

      "The FCC's authority over WiFi comes from the airwaves, which are a public resource/commons. They have no authority over private agreements.", "passively sniffing the wireless, and asking users to leave? Not the purview of the FCC."

      I disagree: they try to restricting your use of said airwaves, so they infringe on a resource that the FCC supervises. There are rules governing the use of shared resources (water use, air pollution, mining, ... and airwaves) and you can't violate the rules even if you have some 'private agreement'.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Grandstanding and fear mongering

        I think the problem was that Marriot was caught running an active jammer, which IS against the law. Jammers are illegal, but shunts (like Faraday cages) are NOT.

  4. Adrian 4 Silver badge

    Why do they need hotspots ?

    Don't modern laptops / tablets etc. have their own SIM cards and cell hardware ?

    Can't they connect their phones with bluetooth or USB ?

    I do all the above as required (and Wifi). Wifi is mostly just another thing to go wrong though - USB is by far the most reliable.

    1. Steve Evans

      I'd definitely go with the bluetooth option myself... Much less likely to be spotted.

    2. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Can't they connect their phones with bluetooth or USB ?

      They can indeed as I do when away from home. The icon on my phone is labelled "Hotspot" which is shorthand for WiFi Hotspot. What is it you do not understand about this?

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Don't modern laptops / tablets etc. have their own SIM cards and cell hardware ?

      Some do, some don't. Most don't.

      Tablets, yes, mostly. Laptops, no. Mostly not.

    4. Sandtitz Silver badge
      Boffin

      @Adrian 4

      "Don't modern laptops / tablets etc. have their own SIM cards and cell hardware ?"

      As said, some do. It's usually an option on business laptops only and costs rouhly @£€200.

      Macbooks don't have internal cellular options.

      "Can't they connect their phones with bluetooth or USB ?"

      Of course. Bluetooth should be the last resort since BT has a very slow transfer rate. If you're happy with a 1Mbit/s (give or take) connection then BT is fine.

      Wifi is mostly just another thing to go wrong though - USB is by far the most reliable.

      To me USB is more of a hassle since there's the cable. I certainly have not had problems with WIFI since it has been a standard in every laptop and tablet for the last 10 years or so, and it just...works.

    5. katrinab Silver badge

      I have a SIM in my phone, and access the internet on my iPad, iPod Touch and Laptop via that. I usually use bluetooth rather than Wifi, or USB on my laptop, as it doesn't drain the phone's battery so much.

    6. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      > Can't they connect their phones with bluetooth or USB ?

      That does, of course, mean knowing in advance that you won't be able to use WiFi and going properly equipped. If you are used, as I am, to just turning on the mobile hotspot and using WiFi then you probably aren't equipped with the right cables, software setup, etc to do it any other way.

  5. Sampler

    Like to see them try...

    So, they're measuring signal strength and it's strongest somewhere in my vicinity, sorry, isn't me, and without a right to search I'd like to see you try and prove otherwise..

    1. jamesb2147
      FAIL

      Re: Like to see them try...

      The requirement for a warrant applies only to the government.

      If you go to your neighbor's house, they most certainly have a right to kick you out, even if it's for the wrong reason. If they call the cops, you can protest against a police search. You still can't come back to their house unless they want you there.

      If you believe that your neighbor has done you harm by kicking you out of their house, you can take them to court. They'll win, of course, but you do have that whole "due process" thing still. You'll get a fair trial before you lose.

    2. RealityisntReal

      Re: Like to see them try...

      It's a private venue - not a government action. They don't need a "right" - they could search you all they want. They can simply tell you to leave and if you don't you are committing trespass. You might want to rethink your special brand of entitlement.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Like to see them try...

        Private property still not give license to commit an illegal act, in this case, the blocking of users right to their own paid-for signal of their choice.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Like to see them try...

          "Private property still not give license to commit an illegal act, in this case, the blocking of users right to their own paid-for signal of their choice."

          If it's a right, then it must be enumerated somewhere. Where in the law does it say one is guaranteed access to their subscribed service? Last I checked, it's not illegal to create a passive not-spot like a Faraday cage.

        2. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

          Re: Like to see them try...

          Private property still not give license to commit an illegal act, in this case, the blocking of users right to their own paid-for signal of their choice.

          They didn't block the users' right. They asked them to turn it off (to comply with the T&Cs they agreed to). If they did not, they asked them to leave. They are perfectly at liberty to ask anyone to leave their own private property at any time and for any reason.

          If you went to a hotel, and the management found out you were pissing in the wardrobe instead of the toilet, would it be violating your right to void your bladder when they asked you to leave?

  6. Alistair Silver badge
    Windows

    Hofstra University

    Will cop an out on this -> pursidential debate, anti turrist mehshus!

    The rather *interesting* question I have is *how* did they acquire this agreement not to use WiFi hotspots?. That isn't made completely clear in the article. If it was a T&Cs type of addon to the ticket/invite it may not have standing under certain interpretations.

    @jamesb2147 -> I'm expecting that Hofstra will stand on the scaremongering bit.

    "Under the rules, "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, including as part of an effort to force consumers to purchase access to the property owner's Wi-Fi network."

    *including as part of an effort to force consumers to purchase.....*

    is the key line in that article of the act in this case.

    I'd like to see *just* how much Hofstra made off the event, and just how much tuition will be reduced next year for students as a result of that profit.

    Oh, wait, right, private......

    .....and it didn't work properly anyway did it?

    1. jamesb2147

      Re: Hofstra University

      @Alistair - "intentionally block or disrupt personal Wi-Fi hot spots"

      Hofstra did absolutely nothing to the hotspots, which is exactly the limit of the FCC's authority on this matter. There's nothing to enforce unless they used a jammer, deauth packets, or some other technical means to *interfere* with the wireless devices. Interfering with the persons using such devices is 100% within their rights.

      Interestingly, I worked at a private university until recently-ish. I was *the* network admin for 2500 users. I can almost guarantee that they're terribly underfunded and this was somebody's desperate attempt to look like they're bringing the university money and that IT is not just a cost center. Which is a sad state of affairs, really. They clearly also did not test their wireless before letting the crowd have at it. I've been in this position (my boss attempted the cash-in part, and thankfully, that idea was nixed, but we still made wireless promises that we could not keep and were not given tools or wireless units or time to improve coverage... it was just expected to work perfectly everywhere, all the time, magically, because that's how wireless works), so I can empathize. Still, there's a bag of at least 3 dickheads in all this. I hope they at least use the money to better their wireless infrastructure, but I know they won't.

      I genuinely hope the organizers choose a better forum for the event 4 years from now, and that they don't have to include "WiFi clauses" in their contracts because of this dickbag.

      1. Ardvark Master

        Mr

        "intentionally block or disrupt personal Wi-Fi hot spots"

        I am curious, everyone who says they did not do this refers to the fact that they used no active electronic means to accomplish their goals. But does this "intentional block or disrupt" only apply if someone uses active electronic means to block access to other WiFi networks. Why is the act of passive detection and physical (in the sense they were told to leave) expulsion not a disruption of their personal WiFi hotspot? Especially since the the detection/expulsion has the real intent of pushing people to their own (the venue's) WiFi.

        Setting aside the issue of multiple WiFi networks, If someone does know if this only applies to electronic blocking, I would be interested in that answer.

        1. jamesb2147

          Re: Mr

          There's not a concise, easy answer to this, so my apologies for the length of replies you'll need to read to be reasonably informed on the topic.

          Congress granted authority to the FCC to create and manage rules around licensed and unlicensed spectrum. The FCC determined that for unlicensed spectrum, they would have a very limited set of rules, primarily regarding power levels and harmful interference. None of the rules are about business relationships and Congress did not give them that authority with respect to wireless rulemaking. Unfortunately, I don't have the rules nor the law on hand to reference.

          I do, however, have a link to this NANOG archive with discussion from a bunch of enterprise wireless/WISP guys, some of whom are frequently actively involved in the regulatory process.

          http://mailman.nanog.org/pipermail/nanog/2014-October/thread.html#70335

          Look for anything regarding Marriott wifi blocking. Seriously, take some time, it's a fascinating read, and you'll have a much better understanding of the FCC's role in WiFi networking.

          The long and the short of it is that the airwaves are a public space. You have a right to them as much as your neighbor. Since RF travels *across* property, some people confuse the land (and some ambiguous amount of space above it) which they own, with the RF spectrum, which they most definitely have a right to but do not own. RF spectrum is considered to be for everyone's use and therefore everyone must play by the rules (created by the FCC). That includes even if it's entirely on your property, with a point-to-point wireless link miles away from anyone else. If you crank up the power above what's allowed, you might not get caught, but if you are, the FCC could fine you just the same as they did Marriott, even though it was entirely on your property and may not have detrimentally impacted anyone. The point is that you have a right to use the unlicensed spectrum, but so does everyone else, so the FCC was designated as making the rules, and their rule is no harmful RF interference (and they have determined that spoofed de-auth packets are harmful interference). That's it. You don't have a God given right to use WiFi on everyone else's property, you can expect your device, if you use it within the spectrum, will not be detrimentally impacted by other devices using the spectrum (except by overloading it, because that happens, but isn't considered "harmful interference").

          1. Ardvark Master

            Re: Mr

            Thanks for the reply.

            I appreciate the time you took for the reply. The non-interference rules for unlicenced spectrum would appear to be the basis of the Marriott decision. But if some operates their wifi hotspot in a public space without intent to interfere, regardless of the number of others doing the same, can the operators of the public space physically deny them the ability to do so by telling them to stop or their credentials will be revoked?

            Since, as you put it, the air waves are public space, does physical disruption count with regards to the Marriott decision or was that strictly intended to prevent active electronic disruption? Many comments forcefully state the latter and if that is true than the whole article was just click-bait. But if everyone is to share the spectrum, how can any user usurp the power to block others by any means and then direct them to their own costly WiFi?

            I honestly don't know the answer and don't really know if I could find the answer. But I would be interested to know, one was or the other.

        2. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Mr

          "I am curious, everyone who says they did not do this refers to the fact that they used no active electronic means to accomplish their goals. But does this "intentional block or disrupt" only apply if someone uses active electronic means to block access to other WiFi networks."

          That's exactly the point. Jammers are illegal (the Marriot case amounted to a jammer), but shunts (which are passive and simply redirect radio waves away from an area) are NOT. That's why it's legal to build a Faraday cage.

          1. Ardvark Master

            Re: Mr

            I would agree that a Faraday cage, blocking all RF would probably considered a legal, passive, method of denying access to external WiFi.

            But that isn't what occurred here and is the central part of my question: does "intentional block or disrupt" only apply to active electronic disruption or can venue owner using, in this case, denial or revocation of credentials to force people to turn off WiFi hotspots be considered blocking or disrupting? What grants the venue owner the sole arbiter of who gets to use the unlicensed spectrum in that area?

            1. jamesb2147

              Re: Mr

              If it is a technical means, it is under the purview of the FCC.

              I am not aware of any action the FCC has taken against passive technical methods, such as Faraday cages. However, the FCC made clear in its finding against Marriott that it considered active technical methods to be "harmful interference" to the airwaves and therefore within the FCC's authority to fine.

              Business arrangements, to be absolutely clear, are the authority of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Trade being synonymous with business in this context. The only reason the FCC claims any jurisdiction over ISP's (and WiFi operators are not presently considered ISP's, BTW) is because the FCC has classified them as Title II common carriers and therefore subject to different, special regulations. These are NOT the same regulations that dictate compliance for devices in the unlicensed spectrum (900MHz, 2.4GHz, 5GHz, 60GHz, etc.).

              Seriously, read the NANOG thread. All your questions are answered there by very smart people with references to FCC publications.

              To answer your simple question: No. The FCC does not have nor does it claim to have (at present) authority over commercial agreements between private parties, except under specific situations, such as Title II regulation. Your presence on someone else's property does not give you the right to use WiFi there. Period. It gives you a right to expect that your unlicensed wireless devices will not experience "harmful interference" which the FCC has to date only defined as active technical interference. You, however, may experience interference including being removed from the premises. That's not considered "harmful interference" by any definition that the FCC has been known to use.

              1. Ardvark Master

                Re: Mr

                "It gives you a right to expect that your unlicensed wireless devices will not experience "harmful interference" which the FCC has to date only defined as active technical interference."

                Thank you. I appreciate the time you took in answering this. My work doesn't usually intersect with the FCC so I don't keep up on everything they do. Now I'm wondering if the FCC doesn't do anything, will Mariott and other such places start popping up with similar agreements essentially banning the use of personal hotspots.

                1. jamesb2147

                  Re: Mr

                  Will Marriott do this? Probably not.

                  There are two ways to enforce a hotspot ban:

                  1) Spoof de-auth packets

                  This is illegal and I only wish the fine against Marriott and other convention operators had been higher. I'm honestly *shocked* that the FCC hasn't tackled Cisco/Meraki et al for actively advertising this as a feature since its use is decidedly illegal. Shame on the vendors for pushing this garbage on US users. However, my point in mentioning this is that this feature has already been built and is included as a rogue detection and mitigation feature, and generally costs customers nothing to implement, as a matter of course.

                  2) Train security staff

                  Actually, this is really complicated. You have to purchase highly specialized scanning equipment (Fluke is $2k just for a basic device) for *each* enforcer, train that enforcer extensively because they're likely security staff and not IT (most hotels don't keep IT staff on hand), potentially add to the security ranks because this is additional workload, write this clause into agreements with customers, and still not chase away high paying customers/convention attendees. This is *exceptionally* more expensive than option 1 above, which is free with your wireless controller license.

                  A business would only take this route if the management decided it was worth the investment. Certainly, in some particularly large conference locations, it will be (the Gaylord Opryland may end up back in the news for this). Your average Marriott, though? Puhhhh-lease.

                  That's why the author's article posits a question that's already been answered. You might occasionally get fleeced by an overzealous hotel management team. Avoid that property in future and rest well, assured of the fact that the economics of tracking down WiFi violations is vastly weighted in favor of just letting it go.

              2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Mr

                "You, however, may experience interference including being removed from the premises. That's not considered "harmful interference" by any definition that the FCC has been known to use."

                Wandering around with a "wifi detector" is likely to end up being classed as "technical means"

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Mr

              "What grants the venue owner the sole arbiter of who gets to use the unlicensed spectrum in that area?"

              Nothing, as it's not the venue owner's to arbite.

              This will get interesting but in the longer term expect that outfits which want to hold you to ransom over connectivity will shield their premises. That way they can block 4G access too.

        3. Grunchy

          Re: Mr

          "intentionally block or disrupt personal Wi-Fi hot spots"

          What means "block or disrupt": does that mean electronic jamming, or could that also include a promise to throw you out for daring to try it.

          To me this is (another) argument over nothing but semantics. One group wants to control your ability to communicate on their property, and if they are prohibited from electronically jamming you, they will certainly get some goons to figure out whether you're communicating or not, and if you are communicating, well then they punish you somehow.

          FCC stands for "Federal Communications Commission". Should a University have the power to monitor people communicating on campus and shut them down for not paying for the privilege? Anybody arguing "yes this is valid and noble" is an ASSHOLE.

    2. RealityisntReal

      Re: Hofstra University

      You're ignoring the "intentionally block or disrupt personal Wi-Fi hot spots on such premises" part. They never blocked or disrupted their access. They simply told them to leave. Not the same thing.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Hofstra University

        They never blocked or disrupted their access. They simply told them to leave. Not the same thing.

        Were you dropped on your head as a child? This is the very definition of denied access.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Worthy of

    a third world banana republic

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Worthy of a third world banana republic

      Not true. Opposite in fact. Worthy of a modern developed western nation.

      I've been sitting in several airport lounges in the sort of developing nations that you've described. Typically there were a dozen or more free wifi hotspots offered by all the food outlets, as a public service. A veritable feast of Internet connectivity.

      Once upon a time, from our hotel window in a major city in Asia, my laptop picked up about 30 hotspots, and at least a dozen were wide open.

      It's not until one gets back to western civilization that free wifi becomes rare.

    2. RealityisntReal

      Re: Worthy of

      Worthy of a stupid anonymous post. Gets all the credibility it deserves - none.

  8. Unicornpiss Silver badge

    Not only do I hope they get "spanked" for this..

    ..but I hope people and businesses vote with their wallets and boycott their venue. Surely there are other convention centers available.

  9. scubaal

    but there is also the stadium effect?

    Have any of you tried to use wifi in a densely populated venue. It dies. Its called the stadium effect. Free service begets unlimited demand - which in wifi kills the service for everyone. Even tech conferences (which I attend a lot of) often have woeful wireless at the 'keynote' where a thousand people congregate in a small space.

    Whether they should charge $200 or not I don't know (I suspect not) but I guarantee that 'normal everyday' free wifi hotspots would not have delivered anyway.

    1. jamesb2147

      Re: but there is also the stadium effect?

      There are a couple of ways to approach this, and I've witnessed one firsthand:

      1) The stadium approach.

      Yes, there are loads of people. So, they use specialized, directional antennas, crank down the power, and place shielding behind and around them to limit the signal. Works for the superbowl, generally held at only the largest of stadiums!

      2) The conference approach

      This is the one I've seen first hand. Xirrus makes a line of AP's that effecitvely have like 16 radios and antennas set up in just the way described above; they are arranged in a circle, are highly directional, and have shielding to prevent leakage. NANOG uses them to handle their summer keynotes with generally 1000+ attendees in a room. I think they usually have 4 of these in the room. Naturally, these are fairly bandwidth hungry users, as they're all net admins/architects/operators/engineers with generally multiple devices on at once. It's quite a feat to have witnessed.

      For a venue such as Hofstra, approach 2 would probably have been best considering the likely limited skills/tooling of the tech on hand, though I'm sure the bleachers would have made things difficult either way. I'm kind of surprised they didn't just ask a vendor to come in and essentially advertise their gear by operating the wireless just for this event.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: but there is also the stadium effect?

        Jamesb2147 You are correct. I worked for a vendor who sold conference and stadium WiFi systems capable of supporting more than 200k simultaneous connections. There are several competitors in this space with excellent equipment. Like most WiFi implementations the biggest challenge is site planning and system design which is quite complex and a task for a specialist.

  10. RealityisntReal

    They did not do wifi blocking - this is in now way the same as the Marriot hotel issue. They told people that they would not allow private wifi access and that they needed to use their wifi signal for a price. They owned and controlled the venue - that is their right. They never used any kind of blocking technology. Your article is there simply to create an incorrect account of the events.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      That like saying they used a knife instead of gun so it's not murder.

      The prevented users from using their own access. That is NOT allowed under federal law. Does NOT matter how it was denied. DOES NOT.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        If that were true, Faraday cages would be illegal. The FCC can only regulate active interference. Passive interference is another matter altogether.

      2. jamesb2147

        Show me the evidence.

        You won't find any because there is none.

        https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/47/333

        "No person shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications of any station licensed or authorized by or under this chapter or operated by the United States Government."

        See the bit about "to any radio communications"? It does not say that *you* are protected as an operator of a device. It says your radio communications are protected. The venue removed people and their attendant devices, they did not interfere with radio communications.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The prevented users from using their own access. That is NOT allowed under federal law. Does NOT matter how it was denied. DOES NOT.

        What part do you not understand? They didn't prevent them using their own access, just told them to use it somewhere else.

        On my property you must obey my rules: no smoking, no drinking, no f... my daughter. Don't like? Go away.

  11. dan1980

    Is it a d$#k move? Yes. Did they actually disrupt a wireless signal? Not so far as I can tell.

    If what they did was wrong then it must also be wrong to insist people switch off mobile phones. That's the long and the short of it.

  12. Old Used Programmer

    At the end where you say "WiFi for $20 a day"... *Where* did you find that rate for a conference venue? The hotel in which I help run an 1800 member con wants $500 per day...per IP address.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hofstra University, media whore, is a stupid place to hold a debate.

    Stuart Rabinowitz, like the rest of the university, seem to have a problem with the US First Amendment.

    Freedom of speech isn't one of their strengths. It would appear that their students are so emotional crippled that any words either written nor oral with any "perceived" bias is a grounds for disciplinary action. Yet these emotional and psychological cripples are allowed to vote.

    Hofstra U., their sponsoring of the debates and their continued existence; is all about the money; more contributions, more visibility to get the next batch of emotional cripples to create more emotional cripples that will not be a net positive for the United States. (For the individual students.. yeah, maybe if they avoid student loans for music and art, but for society.. not so much.. can they handle a racial slur by the Japanese?)

    If they can get a few thousands from the media; I am sure Stuart has no problem in extracting more money for his own narcissistic gains. It is just another Madison Square Garden.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Hofstra University, media whore, is a stupid place to hold a debate.

      "Freedom of speech isn't one of their strengths. It would appear that their students are so emotional crippled that any words either written nor oral with any "perceived" bias is a grounds for disciplinary action. Yet these emotional and psychological cripples are allowed to vote."

      The First Amendment can ONLY be legally applied in regards to government action. Hofstra University is NOT a government-funded institution, so like any private business can implement their own rules.

      PS. The ONLY way to prevent stupid people from voting is to implement some kind of test or standard, which immediately raises issues of corruption. You lose either way.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Hofstra University, media whore, is a stupid place to hold a debate.

        "The First Amendment can ONLY be legally applied in regards to government action."

        Except that in a privately owned publicly accessible environment (like a mall), the administration is legally treated as "government" for the purposes of the first amendment (of the USA constitution) and ends up being subjected to those rules. This has been thoroughly thrashed out in US courts.

        The question is whether a conference area is classified as publicly accessible.

        And then there's the question of whether walking around with a "wifi detector" is 'technical means' within the FCC's definitions even if enforcement is meatspace.

  14. EveryTime Silver badge

    Limitations on this approach.

    I believe that what was done here was legal, in the very narrow circumstances present.

    The presidential debate was a private, restricted, invitation-only event. Invitees were vetted and searched. It was specifically not a place of public accommodation for the event.

    Someone will inevitably try this same approach where the same narrow circumstances are not present. Then we'll run into an interesting legal situation. How much control does a property owner have over someone's use of the airwaves? Can an implied contract have precedence over an individual's right to use the public airwaves? Isn't there an overwhelming public policy goal to rule any such purported contract claim invalid?

  15. Katie Saucey
    Big Brother

    Wi-Fi rip off?

    Media trying to control the narrative? Well at least it isn't the jews ...oh wait.

    And before I get perma-banned for being 'literally Hitler' look at the concentration of ownership in of the media westerner countries, the bias is real regardless whom of might be doing it. They all spit out the same narrative day after day, even Al-Jazz does this (RT the same but with a Rusksie anti-american slant), AP releases a clip/bite, everyone parrots, then relentlessly shoots down any independent opposition as 'a conspiracy' or freaks out about some autistic 400lb'ers on 4chan (Trump) with the frog memes (Hillary).

    Here is an oldie, but a good example

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzAytlDjl7E

    The worst part is no one f-ing seems to care. Poor Orwell, he was absorbed in the Huxley merger of 9/11.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re.

    Ran into a variant of this a while back, in the form of mysterious network dropouts forcing me back onto expen$ive 4G.

    Strangely enough when I tried sharing out that the same thing happened, seems particularly bad around Town so suspecting noisy imported 2.4G security cameras here resorted to switching channels to 6 and that helped somewhat though the range still sucked ie 3 feet!!

    I'd be interested to see exactly how these cameras are allowed to operate considering that there is no distinction between intentional and accidental jamming in law.

    Certainly jamming WiFi with deauth packets should be just as illegal as jamming 3G/4G/etc, license free does not mean license to intentionally deny access for the purposes of profiteering.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Re.

      "Ran into a variant of this a while back, in the form of mysterious network dropouts forcing me back onto expen$ive 4G."

      If you use 5GHz hotspots, things tend to work a lot better.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Re.

      "I'd be interested to see exactly how these cameras are allowed to operate"

      Simple. Noone's reported them yet.

      If a device is causing interference it must be switched off, even if it's been declared as compliant, etc etc etc - and we know how reliable a lot of declarations on equipment are.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    amazed no-one made a connection

    I appreciate the FCC role given the Marriott thing, which was clearly spectrum related mischief (as stated in the article)... what actually happened is much more like Star Bucks or Pizza Hut asking you not to drink or eat your own food in their restaurant.

    Planes are trying it but those that charge for a sandwich on flight usually have high prices and crap sandwiches so i bluetooth or usb mine at 35,000ft.

    1. Alien8n Silver badge

      Re: amazed no-one made a connection

      And how good are your blutoothed or USBed sandwiches? Do you have to get them from Usbway?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Chargebacks

    Did reporters buy the failed $200 WiFi with a credit card? If so it would be easy to get a refund. Hofstra would lose the $200, pay a good chunk of fees, and have their service rates raised.

  19. PNGuinn
    Trollface

    Be fair, Necessary security and all that

    What else could they do to help prevent one of the candidates running a private email server during the event?

    Probably a TLA mandated security feature.

    Just surprised they didn't build a wall around the venue to keep out all the M******s and M*****s

  20. James 51 Silver badge
    Gimp

    My Q10 can share its internet connection with my playbook via bluetooth. That wouldn't that be a lot harder to detect and shut down particularly as a whole bunch of other devices such as smart watches and wireless headsets use it as well?

    There's also the ability to plug it (the Q10) into a computer with a usb cable and have it act effectively as a modem.

    There are ways around it, just not particularly convenient ones.

  21. Static Cat

    Take for example 2 people. 1 creates a WI-FI hotspot on his phone and they both connect to it. The person with the hotspot gets asked to leave for having personal WI-FI, no interference there as even outside he can still access it. The second person however HAS had their WI-FI interrupted by the action of the venue so surely that DOES fall under the regs?

  22. cortland
    Holmes

    Thak goodness for

    USB smartphone tethering. More secure, too.

  23. Marty McFly
    Big Brother

    That's cheap!

    I am involved with corporate events. We regularly spend $150,000 for a week's worth of Wifi & bandwidth for a conference of 2000-3000 attendees. The bulk of that is on setup, not on the length of the conference.

    Could the attendees bring their own Wifi hot spots? Sure! Would that quickly overwhelm the capacity of the local cell towers? Yup. So the only real option is for us to provide the connectivity.

    At corporate events there are charges for the attendee to attend the conference - either it is internal and per employee, or people sign up and pay. In either case, we simply build the cost of the connectivity in to the overall package.

    I suspect the Presidential Debates do NOT have significant cover charges for media to attend. Thus they need to recover the infrastructure investment somehow. And remember, the bulk of the expense is on the setup - not on the length of the event.

  24. Daruka

    You don't need wifi, don't they have 4 G in the Useless Snakes? Amazing how archaic you guys are. BTW. 4G is 10 times faster also

  25. Daruka

    I got 4G 20GB a month for 20 euros. Europe is FAR ahead of the USA in cellphone tech and coverage.

    1. Daruka

      Just did Speedtest on my Smartphone (NOTE 4). with 4G I get 90MB/s down speed and 50MB/s upspeed. I can upload a 1.6 GB video to YouTube in about 10-15 minutes. with my wifi it takes 2 hours

  26. Terrance Brennan

    I'm ashamed

    I received my BS from Hofstra 40 years ago and am truly ashamed by their behavior. I stopped contributing to them when they got so PC they changed the nick name from "Flying Dutchmen" (Hofstra is named after the local potato farmer who gave the land for the University who was of Dutch origin) to "The Pride" (cheesy lion costumes.)

    Yes, Hofstra is a private entity; but, what does their contract with the Commission for Presidential Debates cover? I would think the commission, the candidates, and parties would be less than pleased if the media didn't show up. I would think Hofstra had some obligation to the commission. And, to add insult to injury; Hofstra apparently misspelled Clinton's first name on the fancy schmancy tickets.

    http://www.newsday.com/long-island/nassau/clinton-s-first-name-misspelled-on-hofstra-s-souvenir-debate-tickets-1.12373357

  27. John Savard Silver badge

    No Jamming

    Using an electronic jammer is illegal, but simply ejecting people from private property for not following the rules has nothing to do with the FCC. Thus, hospitals and prisons, for different reasons, prohibit unauthorized use of cell phones on their premises. In the case of prisons, enforcing it with a jammer would be useful, but it isn't allowed.

    Possibly, though, since they are engaged in selling Wi-Fi services, they would still come under FCC jurisdiction for other reasons, so it's not impossible they ran afoul of something, but it isn't the usual rule governing this sort of thing that has cropped up in many previous news stories.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  28. cortland

    Workarounds

    If the content is available on the Web you can access it via your mobile provider direct without using Wifi.

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