Austin Boosts WiFi With 'Homeless Hotspots'

by Georgia Bobley · March 12, 2012

Crowds of people flooding Austin for SXSW means one thing for festival-goers: weak cellphone and WiFi signals. Though the lack of connectivity has been a problem at SXSW in the past, one NY-based marketing firm, BBH, is hoping to change that this year. The firm's initiative, called Homeless Hotspots, has equipped 13 homeless men with portable wireless routers.

If your internet signal needs a boost, you can use PayPal to buy access to the 4G network. The men, who were hired through Austin's Front Steps Shelter, are positioned throughout the city and are wearing t-shirts that say "I'm (name), a 4G hotspot." Homeless Hotspots was met with controversy, and those who opposed took to Twitter last night, where they discussed the topic using the hashtag #homelesshotspots.

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Jennifer Parks (@jennifereparks) tweeted:

#homelesshotspots at #sxsw are disturbing. Do they think they are helping homeless people or just exploiting them?

Eric S. (@erictiptaptip) tweeted:

Why don’t we turn them into batteries to charge our MacBooks too? #homelesshotspots

John Loscalzo (@loscalzo) tweeted:

Whether it's a hoax, a culture jam or an honest effort @BBHLabs #homelesshotspots hits all the wrong notes. #fail

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In addition to defending themselves on Twitter, founders of the infinitive have made it clear that Homeless Hotspots will do more to help the men than hurt them. In addition, each of the 13 homeless men who are serving as human-hubs will keep their profits.

Go HERE to read more about the program, as well as the 13 men.