homeless person with empty space for text
March 13, 2012

‘Homeless Hotspots’ Becoming Most Controversial Way To Get Online

Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) ad agency has equipped homeless people with wireless internet hotspots, creating a whirlwind of controversy.

BBH equipped 13 homeless people with 4G MiFi devices in Austin, Texas and suggested those who wish to use the hotspots pay $2 for 15 minutes of access to the Internet.

Google Maps was used to help alert the public to where the Homeless Hotspots participants were located.

The ad agency pitched the idea as being a modern take on street newspapers being sold by homeless people.

"The model isn't inherently broken, It's simply the output that's archaic in the smartphone age," BBH said in a blog post.

It proposes users buy 4G Internet access from a homeless person, sending a payment through a PayPal link to help BBH keep track of finances.

BBH said that this is currently a "beta test", but it may later be "adopted on a broader scale."

Although the concept can be seen as an intuitive idea, many sounded off on Twitter and BBH's site to criticize the project.

"Helping hipsters check their email is not charitable, in fact it's potentially dangerous and detrimental to the situation the people on the street are facing," one user commented on the blog.

However, one homeless man participating in the project had positive things to say about it when interviewed by Buzzfeed.

"I would say that these people are trying to help the homeless, and increase awareness," Melvin from Ohio told Buzzfeed. "They're trying not to put us in a situation where we're stereotyped. That's a good side of it, too – we get to talk to people. Maybe give them a different perception of what homeless is like."

BBH sounded off on its blog to address the concerns of some of the public, saying that it is only a test program and is scheduled to end today.

The agency said "each of the Hotspot Managers keeps all of the money they earn" and that the more the homeless people sell, the more they make.

BBH also said that the volunteers were guaranteed to make at least $50 a day for a maximum of 6 hours of work.

"This amount equates to more than the Texas state minimum wage of $7.25/hr for the same number hours. Based on donations already received, we know their earnings will be higher than $50 for each of them — as was our intention," BBH said in the blog.


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