FCC announces $750K settlement with firm that blocked Wi-Fi signals at convention centers

A wireless Internet provider that federal regulators say blocked consumers' personal Wi-Fi signals at convention centers around the country, including Cincinnati and Columbus, must pay a $750,000 fine as part of a settlement with the government.

The Federal Communications Commission announced the settlement this week with Smart City Holdings LLC, based in Las Vegas. The Internet and telecommunications provider blocked personal mobile hotspots of convention visitors and exhibitors who used their own data plans instead of paying Smart City's fees for Wi-Fi signals, the FCC said.

A statement from Smart City says the company admitted no wrongdoing and wasn't found to have violated any laws as part of the agreement.

Smart City President Mark Haley said the company has occasionally used technologies to prevent wireless devices from interfering with operations of neighboring exhibitors on convention floors and had no prior notice that the technology was unacceptable to the FCC.

The FCC says Smart City charged $80 to access the company's wireless Internet services for a day and automatically blocked users who didn't pay from accessing the Internet from their hotspots.

"All companies who seek to use technologies that block FCC-approved Wi-Fi connections are on notice that such practices are patently unlawful," Travis LeBlanc, chief of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau, said in a statement.

Investigators say Smart City also blocked signals at convention centers in Indianapolis and in Arizona and Florida.