Thanks to Bartle, Bogle and Hegarty, an ad agency in Manhattan, some homeless people are now being used as mobile wi-fi hotspots. In this new “charitable experiment”, homeless people are given mi-fi devices that allow anybody within 30 feet of them to receive 4G internet service. These human hotspots bear T-shirts with their names and a slogan “I’m a 4G hotspot”, and are instructed to stand in certain areas and let the users come to them.
The MiFi devices worn by these on-the-street service providers are small wireless routers produced by Novatel (“My Wi-fi”). Up to five devices can connect. The “Homeless Hotspots” project debuted at the South by Southwest arts and tech festival in Austin (SXSW) and is now set to hit NYC. Anybody wanting to make use of the homeless wi-fi providers are encouraged to give them $2 for every 15 minutes of usage. Some homeless people were enthusiastic about the project, but others suggested that more money could be made elsewhere:
“I wouldn’t do it because I can make 10 to 12 dollars an hour here panhandling. From that to maybe $2 a person is a long jump,” scoffed Robert Johnson, 48, who uses a wheelchair and was working Grand Central.
The idea of using homeless people as mobile wi-fi hotspots is inspired by the Street Newspaper model, in which street papers (covering homelessness/poverty issues) are sold by homeless or poor individuals. The idea behind the model was to build social networks among the homeless as well as employment opportunities and a community voice. BBH says that, keeping in mind the gradual replacement of newsprint with digital media, they have modernized this model through the homeless-hotspot concept.
BBH had this to say about their experiment and the reaction:
Obviously, there’s an insane amount of chatter about this, which although certainly villianizes us, in many ways is very good for the homeless people we’re trying to help: homelessness is actually a subject being discussed at SXSW and these people are no longer invisible. We wanted to share a few key facts:
- We are not selling anything. There is no commercial benefit whatsoever.
- This is a test program that was always scheduled to end (there’s no 2-week payment cycle)
- Each of the Hotspot Managers keeps all of the money they earn.
There are plans for a documentary called Underheard in NY. BBH stresses that it is not a reality TV program.
Source: NY Post
Thanks to Dennis for the link!