back to article 4G hobonet stunt was riddled with flaws, doomed to ridicule

People have criticised the the Homeless Hotspots concept for reducing homeless people to moving bits of network infrastructure, but the idea has some practical flaws too. Presented as an update to the model that puts homeless people to work selling street newspapers and magazines like The Big Issue, ad agency BBH was at tech …


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  1. FartingHippo

    Silly idea

    They should strap the required hardware to stray dogs and urban foxes. No need to worry about The Guardian's readership turning purple with apoplectic outrage in that case.

    Or maybe pigeons.

    1. Tom Maddox Silver badge

      Re: Silly idea


  2. bexley

    5GB per month?

    I already struggle with the 7GB a month i get on 3G and I'm not sharing that with 5 other people It's not enough any more.

    unrealistic data caps need to go away. How can they tout 4G as a next gen mobile internet 'more suitable for things like video streaming' if your only getting 5GB a month?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Ad-hoc network

    I was at a large and prestigious conference with lots of security. Imagine my surprise to see a homeless person wondering around the exhibition area with a bottle of cider, roaming freely and then making a casual exit through the fire escape and setting off an alarm.

    How he got in god only knows but kudos for evading security!

  4. dom_f


    "The heavy demand on the mobile network is more than normal infrastructure is designed to cope with, and Homeless Hotspots adds a useful temporary mobile infrastructure."

    So how does that work given the homeless hotspots are sharing the same overloaded mobile infrastructure?

  5. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    So if you want to use wireless network in the pub...

    ...does CyberHobo still charge for data, as well?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Would you sit on a kerb in London and work on your laptop?"

    If I was a homeless, yes.

  7. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

    I'm all for helping people

    Homeless or not you can't get a job if you can't sleep, eat, wash and wear clean clothes.

    Just about all of those conditions apply to homeless people.

    Add the fact they have an illness such as drug abuse or some other plight and they are sunk.

    If only it was as easy as getting a hub or even a dongle (far cheaper than a subscription to a magazine wholesaler) but it is an idea.

    New ideas require a ground breaker, these usually fail. But they demonstrate the idea's possibilities. So I hope it works. It's a pity the mentality of likely applicants is to get enough for a bottle of booze, do so and then come back.

    So what can you do?

    It's just sad but Some People will try to get out of the mess.

    At least, I hope some people will.

    1. Andy ORourke

      Re: I'm all for helping people

      "you can't get a job if you can't sleep, eat, wash and wear clean clothes"

      You obviously havent met some of the people I work with :-)

  8. Peter Simpson 1
    Thumb Up

    Not as cut and dried as it seems

    Public Radio in the US had an interview last night with one of the homeless guys ("Dusty", IIRC) who had been part of this. He said that he and the other guys had volunteered for this and had a good time doing it, enjoyed meeting and talking with the people who used the hotspots.. He was well spoken and said he had only been homeless for a few months. They were proud to have been part of the experiment and to have made money for their shelter. After the recent financial unpleasantness in the US, "homeless" no longer equates to unwashed and mentally ill.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missed an important question

    Where is Hobo going to recharge his wifi station?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On blaming the tech industry.

    >"I suppose what gets to me in particular about the Homeless Hotspots initiative is that it promotes itself as the tech industry stepping up to solve a social problem,"

    Does it? Where? I looked round their site and saw no mention of the tech industry whatsoever. There are three corporate logos at the footer of the site, BBH, Illuminati Creative and Anthem Branding, all exclusively ad/marketing/pr outfits. I could only find it promoting itself as:

    >"Homeless Hotspots is a charitable innovation initiative by BBH New York. "

    which doesn't suggest "the tech industry stepping up" at all.

  11. clv101

    This already works

    The model works great in some of the poorest countries in the world - look up Village Phone. A single (expensive) phone and contract is administered by one person who then resells airtime and services to individuals who could hope to afford the phone/contract themselves but can afford a single call/email etc.

  12. John A Blackley

    So giving wireless hotspots to homeless people in London or some other shitty weather locale in the UK and using today's pricing model is a crap idea.

    I agree. I put it to you thought that by limiting yourself to thinking only in the terms above you're demonstrating a crap imagination.

  13. Dr Zoidberg

    "The telcos have designed their networks to work without the need for homeless people with femtocells."

    This is why this idea is so dumb.

  14. David Lawrence

    This is a brilliant idea and deserves praise!!

    Yes I can see it now.... "excuse me Mr Homeless smelly person, please stand nice and still while I do a quick bit of Stock Market speculating.....lovely.... just made another ten grand!! Lovely Jubbly!! Now be a good hobo and lie down on the pavement would you? My legs are tired and there are no seats nearby. Ahh that's better.... sorry if I am a bit heavy.... spent £600 on a super meal last night........"

    Why stop there? We could force them to make human pyramids or pretend to be statues, to entertain the tourists.....

    Seriously who thought this was a good idea?

    1. John A Blackley

      Re: This is a brilliant idea and deserves praise!!

      Since you ask, the homeless people involved thought this was a good idea. The marketing firm thought this was a good idea. The ARCH group in Austin who provide services to the homeless thought this was a good idea. At last count, a couple of thousand SXSW attendees thought this was a good idea.

  15. Keep Refrigerated
    Paris Hilton

    Lack of imagination

    Sorry but the article is utter dross. Whilst it might not be practical in all locations, I can see a niche market for this - particularly for those of us stuck on networks like AT&T - where coverage is patchy even if you're account has the bandwidth.

    How can anyone state that selling the Big Issue somehow requires more skills or less time in the cold? I'd argue that if this service was executed well it potentially offers more valuable skills than that of a newspaper salesman. Consider the opportunity to provide low level tech support. Big Issue should be looking into these opportunities rather than dismissing them off-hand (whilst sticking to a dying medium).

    With regards to paying them, this is far more secure than the Big Issue (which is vulnerable to unlicensed resellers), all you need is the service provider to provide users with a HoboNet account, when you sign in the account registers the hotspot used and a portion of your bill gets paid to the homeless person (or maybe all hobo's can just get a shared monthly amount).

    Does the homeless person need to stay out or stay in a fixed place for 24 hours? No, there's no reason why they can't roam and rest in various locations, they could even be paid by the hour for how many hours they are switched on/users connected.

    As far as needing to sit on the street with a laptop, this simply shows lack of thought before dismissing the idea. Personally I can imagine a homeless person sitting in a public park offering this. But even where it's impractical to use a laptop, I can think of many situations on the street where having a brief wifi connection for my phone would have saved me a lot of time; I want to emphasise <b>time</b> here, because it's usually not about money. Just that it may be there's no wifi hotspots around when you're up against a deadline.

  16. skeptical i

    It might not have been perfect, but ...

    ... folks who needed network access got it, and some folks who need income and social interaction got it. The alternative would have been to see dollar-a-minute access vendors set up shop and I'd rather see my airtime money help someONE rather than someTHING. I suppose the real test will be to see if the same groups do it again next year or write it off as a failed experiment.

  17. Anonymous Freetard

    Spammy Response

    The charity I volunteer for pays 5% PA interest on investments made with their FSA registered company. All the money invested is used to buy houses so local homeless support groups in the UK can house and help homeless people.

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