back to article Human 4G masts assemble roaming hobonet for pennies

An advertising agency has broken boundaries by attaching 4G gear to homeless people and encouraging them to roam around the SXSW festival while radiating data packets. Homeless Hotspots, a novel system concocted by the New York branch of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, allow techies and journalists to rapidly blog and check their …


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  1. jai

    there's two ways of looking at this

    one - this is barely a step above something like Bum Fights, which reduced these unfortunate individuals to little more than entertainment. this instead just reduces them to a utility.

    two - surely can't be very hard to mug a homeless person for their 4G kit and thereby net yourself a free, personal hotspot of your very own, ensuring you always have high speed data access, for free, until the operators work out which unit you stole and switch it off. And then you just beat up another homeless type and steal their kit again.

    neither of these are particularly good for the homeless person

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      My money

      would be on the homeless person taking -your- 4G portable electronics, rich boy. If it really was 4G, which it probably really isn't.

      I think I'll just not buy -any- second-hand wireless-capable hardware, for a while. Just in case.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My money

        Yeah, because all homeless people are villains!

        1. multipharious

          Re: My money

          a friend of mine took care of a fellow that lived behind his restaurant. Gave him good food. Watched after him when it was cold. Took him to the hospital after thugs beat him up, and picked him up again. Giving him work here and there. He also was very careful to ask for his heater back when it started getting warm. Why? Because he learned that on the years that he didn't, that the heater disappeared (got sold.) My friend didn't miss a beat. He just adapted and watched the weather year after year until the fellow finally got himself on his feet.

          Not villians. It is just hard for us to comprehend what must be done when you are so close to the edge...and that heater is a meal.

          1. DvorakUser

            Re: My money

            Kudos to your friend for being a decent human being. Glad to hear that he helped the guy get on his feet again, but yes, it is hard for most people to comprehend what it's like being so far in the gutter it feels like the mud on other peoples' shoes has a higher social standing than you do.

      2. jai

        Re: My money

        good point - he might be Jean Claude Van Dam from Hard Target and then you'd be fecked!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      bum fights..

      Speaking of bum fights. Where do they keep the batteries?

      /me tiptoes away..

  2. Code Monkey
    Thumb Down


  3. Peter Simpson 1

    An advertising agency has broken boundaries...

    Actually, the first three words tell you all you need to know.

  4. FSW


    Really. It beggers belief.

    1. Ralph B

      Ooh, that was a bum pun!

  5. benzaholic

    Short term job opportunities?

    How much of the money is going to those who so bravely risk their organs to host the 4G stuff?

    If those who participate are making extra money, could this be considered simply putting up the capital to empower the homeless to make opportunistic income? (We won't need all those extra hotspots once these crazy SXSWers leave our lovely town.)

  6. Jeebus

    I hope they come with a good quality data bindle.


  7. Andus McCoatover

    Wouldn't you have to be in close proximity to the hobo?

    Homeless? Might pong a bit....

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Similar Business model?

    Kinda like a digital Big Issue? Dunno

    The Big Issue has been very helpful to many. I'm not sure this is the same though

    1. GitMeMyShootinIrons

      Re: Similar Business model?

      This might be better though. The Big Issue is a rubbish read.

      It all smacks of slavery though. Not at all comfortable with this.

  9. Fuzz

    Is there money in it?

    That's the question to ask,

    Selling the big issue is fine because it is possible to make money selling magazines on the street, it's a business model that works.

    I just can't see that this is a business model that works, who are you targeting? Can't be mobile phone users, if you can get on the mobile network then so can they. Can't be laptop users, to use a laptop to any degree you need to be sat down, if people are sat down, get them some chairs, sell them coffee and attach your wifi to a pole, much cheaper than a person. So that just leaves tablet users who don't also have a cellular connection on their device.

    I think that puts this firmly in the degrading camp and is probably a step down from begging.

  10. CmdrX3
    Paris Hilton


    I have not the words!!!!

    Paris knows all about broadcasting her own little hotspot to the masses.

  11. disgruntled yank

    The good news

    The good news is that it has this has in now way affected my opinion of ad agencies.

  12. Stephen 2


    It's a bad business model, it's obviously not gonna be of any real use. It's obviously just an attention grabbing advertising idea.

    Tbh, any way for homeless people to earn some money is better than nothing. It's up to them whether they want to do it or not.

  13. Grubby

    4G in rural areas

    Tie dongles to sheep.

  14. b166er

    Seems to me, that most people selling the Big tIssue are fakers.

    Aren't these hobo's going to end up with malignant tissue?

  15. Dive Fox

    The last company to give hoboes tumors at least gave them $60 for their trouble, on top of the $60 they got for doing science.

  16. Mephistro

    "Of all the trades that I've ken, the beggin is the best

    for when a beggar's weary he can sit and update his Facebook wall..."



  17. Nights_are_Long

    Something seriously fucking wrong with society...

  18. Scott 19


    So the guys complaining including the author think it's better they stand in traffic with a dirty rag for your windscreen? I suppose they get there drug of choice then rather than shelter.

  19. Elmer Phud

    For a fee . . .

    . . .I could get some more powerful kit in my bike panniers.

    Arrange in advance for me turning up to act as a relay or hotspot for a small event where coverage is lacking.

    (Overheard some people at Womad going on about how clean the air was and how the mobile coverage was surprisingly good - I then advised them that there were three huge mobile comms towers with generators in the next field. )

  20. Will's

    Shocking as it might sound

    An awful lot of people are good and honest.

    Being on the street doesn't change this.

    And there are a lot of people reduced to living on the street in a country with little or no safety net.

    (Because of the lack of safety net?) US citizens are much more likely to give to the homeless - and getting wireless coverage at a music festival is a perfect opportunity to pay a (small) amount for utility and charity.

    1. Fuzz

      Re: Shocking as it might sound

      "getting wireless coverage at a music festival is a perfect opportunity to pay a (small) amount for utility and charity."

      Totally but it would most likely be better to install poles to mount the masts and then give proceeds to charity.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    What's network coverage like here? Oh we have US4V, Don't you mean 4G? No we have an American Vagrant at cardinal points.

    We've made one a tree house as his coverage didn't quite go all the way to end of the pool. Doesn't that mean you are taking advantage of these poor chaps? Well we keep them warm with scraps and old coats (it helps the battery life).

    Oh I say how jolly charitable.

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