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Melvin Says “He is a Mobile Hot Spot” (He as in Himself??)

Allow me to take a crack at explaining what this sentence, “I’m Melvin, a 4G hotspot” on the T-shirt of Melvin Hughes, of Austin, TX means. And why he’s suggesting that you, “SMS HH Melvin to 25827 for access.”
Last week CNNMoney.com caught my attention with their article entitled, “Turning the Homeless Into 4G Hotspots at SXSW”.
In the major metropolitan city of Austin an experimental charitable initiative had a lot of people talking. With a project called “Homeless Hotspots”, they were turning their homeless residents into mobile wireless hotspots.

“A mobile hotspot connects to the Internet via a cellular network, and then creates a Wi-Fi hotspot that can connect any Wi-Fi-enabled device within about 30 feet.”

For the past couple of years portable hotspots have been touted by PCWorld as the future of mobile broadband.  For information on what exactly that means, check out the link here.

Embarrassingly enough, I admit, I’ve only been smart phone user as of recently, but I notice daily that my provider AT&T claims to have these hotspots all over my town, but I seem to continuously be town that I cannot access it. (Oh well.)

Now returning back to this homeless people as hotspots thing, Hughes, homeless and as initially mentioned, is carrying a Verizon MiFi 4G hotspot.

“Texting his code sends back his network password, which the recipient can use to suck down a few minutes of fast broadband access — a scarce commodity at SXSW, a tech/film/music gathering that has drawn more than 20,000 visitors to Austin, Texas.
Access is pay-what-you-want, though $2 per 15 minutes is the suggested donation, payable through Paypal or Venmo. BBH Labs, the project’s organizer, says it will pay all the proceeds directly to the participant who made the sale.”

Hughes did his part handing out hundreds of the cards, and explaining the concept. The response was pretty varied. The firm behind the project is a branch of the global marketing firm BBH. The idea was inspired by the programs throughout dozens of US cities that involve street newspaper selling by homeless residents.

(If you’re unfamiliar with this, and want to learn more I’d recommend this New York Times article here, and/or perusing through this listing of involves cities here )

Saneel Radia, BBH NY’s director of innovation, casts it as a legitimate experiment in entrepreneurship.

“We’re believers that providing a digital service will earn these individuals more money than a print commodity,” Radia wrote in a blog post about the project. “We’re using SXSW as our beta test. Hopefully you can help us optimize and validate this platform, which we hope to see adopted on a broader scale.”

Well I’m more than a little fascinated by this. There’s been a fair amount of backlash that I personally find to be ridiculous. This seems like a wonderful opportunity to address the issue of homeless, our worldwide need and greed for constant digital access, and bringing it together in a way that benefits both parties involved. I don’t see what’s wrong with this. It feels like everyone is simply getting their needs met in a new way.

So that’s the gist of why Austin residents may have seen people around town with shirts stating that they were “hotspots”. I remain curious to the success, (last week was an experiment in the program, and has ended) and its potential for participants in other cities. To think of a program like this taking a stab at Los Angeles would be ah-mazing to say the least. In the meantime I’ll leave you with another great quote from this informative article,

“They’re giving us the opportunity to work,” says Mark West. “You’re proving a service for the public. It’s like an individual business.”



About maggie.

Maggie Barnes is a nonprofit and for profit business content specialist / social media consultant; and social sciences web writer interested in everything from psychology and sexuality, to technology, race, and economics. She is passionate about good communication and information accessibility.


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