Posted on March 14, 2012 by Jennifer Pointer


Have you attended any sort of a large convention lately?  Did you try to get wireless internet service (WiFi) for your laptop at that convention?  How did that go?


WiFi is a precious commodity at most large gatherings, so one company came up with a creative solution at the SXSW convention in Austin this year. They set up local homeless men with mobile hotspots, and allowed the men to keep whatever people donated to use the WiFi.  The campaign is called Homeless Hotspots, which according to the founders: a charitable innovation initiative by BBH New York. It attempts to modernize the Street Newspaper model employed to support homeless populations.

As digital media proliferates, these newspapers face increased pressure. Our hope is to create a modern version of this successful model, offering homeless individuals an opportunity to sell a digital service instead of a material commodity. SxSW Interactive attendees can pay what they like to access 4G networks carried by our homeless collaborators. This service is intended to deliver on the demand for better transit connectivity during the conference.

If you'd like to support Homeless Hotspots from afar, click the button below to donate. All proceeds go directly to Front Steps Homeless shelter.

All proceeds paid for access go directly to the person selling you access. This is a form of income for them...(more)


Feeling about the marketing campaign by conference attendees is mixed.  Some think it's a great idea; some think it's degrading to the homeless people.  I would submit that some people find it a little harder to ignore the homelessness problem in the area with the homeless population making a useful contribution to the event.   I haven't seen the plan in action but from a distance, as long as the programs is 100% voluntary, the volunteers are paid state minimum wage, and the proceeds go to the individuals carrying around the mobile hotspots I don't really see a huge problem.


In fact, I can easily imagine college kids and others helping pay for the cost of the trip by volunteering to become mobile hotspots at upcoming conventions.


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