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For SXSW, Company Turns Homeless Into Wi-Fi Spots

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New York-based advertising agency Bartle, Bogle and Hegarty (BBH) has turned homeless people around Austin into wireless hotspots.

As part of the SXSW festival happening in the city, the company has equipped 13 homeless people from the Front Steps shelter with 4G MiFi devices.

Each homeless participant wore a shirt that says 'I’m (insert name), a 4G Hotspot' and was paid $20 a day.

Users were suggested to pay $2 per $15 minutes of Internet time and could pay in cash or donate through Paypal, which the participants get to keep.

Their campaign however, has been met with swift negative feedback with many calling it "degrading".

Wired’s Tim Carmody criticized it, saying that it "sounds like something out of a darkly satirical science-fiction dystopia".

"The homeless turned not just into walking, talking hotspots, but walking, talking billboards for a program that doesn't care anything at all about them or their future," added Carmody.


Saneel Radia, the director of innovation at BBH Labs who oversaw the project, said the company was not taking advantage of the homeless volunteers.

Radia said he modeled the hotspot project after the street newspapers that homeless people sell for a dollar.

"We saw it as a means to raise awareness by giving homeless people a way to engage with mainstream society and talk to people," he said.

Although no plans have been confirmed, it has been rumored that they might bring the program to New York City next.

[via ABC News]
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