Sheraton Hotel, Habitel, Groove Studios Found Guilty, Fined For Blocking Mobile Phone Signals Of Visitors
Colombia’s Agencia Nacional del Espectro (National Spectrum Agency) and MINTIC (Ministry of Information and Communication Technology) have imposed fines on three hotels operating in Bogotá for unlawfully using electronic devices to jam mobile phone signals within their premises. The hotels found culpable are the Hotel Sheraton Bogotá, fined 51 minimum wages ($32,861,850 COP); Groove Studios, fined 23 minimum wages ($15.8 million COP); and Hotel Habitel (Sociedad Dorado Hoteles SAS), fined 66 minimum wages. In Colombia, government fines are often set as a multiple of the official monthly minimum wage, which for 2016 is $689,455 pesos.
Unscrupulous hotel operators have been known to do this in the past as a way of maximizing revenues by forcing hotel guests and event attendees to purchase the hotel’s internet service. In 2014, the US Federal Communications Commission fined hotel operator Marriott $600,000 USD ($2.045 billion COP) for blocking signals at its Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. That hotel was caught after charging guests and exhibitors up to $1,000 USD ($3.4 million COP) per device for internet access.
“Bettering the quality of telecommunications services is the responsibility of telecommunications operators, but this ministry implements measures that bring guarantees to them, as well as to the citizens so that this service improves substantially,” said MINTIC head David Luna (pictured above). “For that we have come working to identify the barriers that exist so that we can take measures against them on the matter.”
Signal blockers are generally illegal in Colombia, with very few exceptions, such as certain prisons that have obtained prior authorization. The devices were prohibited by law 2774 of 2013.
Charges have also been brought against three more entities, but have not yet been finally adjudicated. Those charges are against Inmobiliaria (Real Estate) Tonchala in Cúcuta, for 18 minimum wages, Lozano Muñoz y Cia, operating in Bogotá as “D Norberto Peluquerás” according to the ANE, for 90 minimum wages, and Hotel Aeropuerto SAS in Bogotá for 66 minimum wages.