In Austin, Homeless People Are Hotspots

“I think the future of marketing is philanthropy.” -Biz Stone, at SXSW today

Homeless Hotspots is a charitable innovation initiative by BBH New York. It attempts to modernize the Street Newspaper model employed to support homeless populations.

Participants in the agency’s Homeless Hotspots program carry MiFi devices with 4G connectivity. People seeking Wifi, in this case people at SXSW, introduce themselves then log on the homeless person’s 4G network via your phone or tablet for a fast high-quality connection. Wifi consumers pay they want and the money goes directly to the person that sold the access.

A person like Clarence:

Gareth Kay of Goodby Silverstein & Partners, who worries that “perhaps the success of SXSW interactive will be its undoing,” also notes on his blog that The Atlantic and ReadWriteWeb have different takes on BBH’s attempt to innovate in the homeless space. RWW’s reporter claims, “the digital divide has never hit us over the head with a more blunt display of unselfconscious gall.”

What do you think? Would you pay a homeless person in your city streets for access to 4G connectivity?

There’s quite a bit of criticism of BBH on Twitter. It made one person want to punch a face, and another person feel like his brain was on fire. Wired is also running the story, but they’ve added some additional backstory on BBH’s previous forays into social giving.

About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today, I'm the founder and creative director at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon. We bring integrated marketing solutions to our clients in healthcare, human services, real estate, fashion, outdoor recreation, and food and beverage.


  1. Yeah, this doesn’t seem to be going well at all.