Homeless Hotspots

March 28, 2012 by staff 

Homeless Hotspots, 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.

Homeless Hotspots is “a charitable experiment” by BBH Labs, the skunkworks wing of marketing firm Bartle Bogle Hegarty. In Austin, BBH Labs is partnering with Front Steps Shelter to equip people from Front Steps’ case management system with 4G MiFi devices to serve as pay-per-use hotspots for attendees at SXSWi. People in the program wear T-shirts reading:

The recommended donation (according to shortformblog) is $2 for 15 minutes of Wi-Fi access, but BBH Labs says it’s officially pay-what-you-wish. Whatever is paid goes to the homeless MiFi manager — either directly if you pay cash, or every two weeks if you use PayPal. BBH Labs gets exposure for its program as well as data for how it might scale — potentially acting as a replacement for newspapers sold by the homeless today. “We’re believers that providing a digital service will earn these individuals more money than a print commodity,” writes BBH Labs’ Saneel Radia.

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