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Human 4G masts assemble roaming hobonet for pennies

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SXSW 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 Twitter updates by clustering around these human phone masts. The project from aims to deliver a better "in transit" network service for people in Austin, Texas.

The New York Times explains:

Homeless people have been enlisted to roam the streets wearing T-shirts that say “I am a 4G hotspot.” Passersby can pay what they wish to get online via the 4G-to-Wi-Fi device that the person is carrying.

Punters can pay for the service via PayPal or mobile app Venmo. BBH recommend a donation of $2 per 15 minutes, which is about a fiver an hour. The proceeds go to Front Steps, a charity that provides shelter to the homeless.

The router-on-a-hobo has been tested before in New York. BBH said it was equivalent to homeless people flogging copies of Big Issue, a revenue model that's under threat with the rise of the internet.

El Reg asked the agency whether or not it thinks attaching 4G kit to homeless people reduced them to phone masts hounded by rich iPad-waving new media types, robbing them of their dignity in a way that touting magazines does not. We await their reply. ®

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