Human Hotspots for the Homeless

At SxSW, one charity is helping homeless people make a living by becoming a mobile wireless hotspot.  USA Today included this passage:


A test program called Homeless Hotspots — described as a “charitable experiment” by creators BBH Labs — takes members of Austin’s homeless population and equips them with 4G MiFi devices.

Wearing t-shirts that read “I’m (Name). I’m a 4G Hotspot,” they collect donations from users for the connection. The official website for Homeless Hotspots suggests $2 for every 15 minutes, but BBH’s Saneel Radia says in a blog post users can pay as much as they want.

“All proceeds paid for access go directly to the person selling you access,” reads a statement on the Homeless Hotspots website. “This is a form of income for them.”

Not everyone is viewing the deeds of BBH as charitable. Among the most notable criticisms:

Wired magazine’s Tim Carmody: “It sounds like something out of a darkly satirical science-fiction dystopia. But it’s absolutely real — and a completely problematic treatment of a problem that otherwise probably wouldn’t be mentioned in any of the panels at South by Southwest Interactive.”

Jon Mitchell of ReadWriteWeb: “The digital divide has never hit us over the head with a more blunt display of unselfconscious gall.”

Listen to one human hotspot working the South by Southwest conference.

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