Thursday, March 15, 2012

Markets in Everything: Homeless Hotspots



More from the America Blog -- 

"A PR firm is working with local homeless advocates to help homeless people in Austin make some money by carrying around their own personal mi-fi boxes that they use to sell a few minutes of wireless access to people on the street.  Mi-fi is a kind of portable wi-fi emitter that creates a small bubble of wi-fi that you can use on the go (basically the same way that people can use their cell phones to create a small bubble of wifi for their ipads or their laptops).  It's a small electronic box, maybe the size of a cigarette box but thinner, and it can pick up an Internet signal via the air and emit it as wi-fi for up to 20 or 30 feet or something.  A number of the homeless are walking around Austin with these emitters, and charging people to get the password for 15 minutes or whatever."

HT: Tom Dilling

17 Comments:

At 3/15/2012 3:24 PM, Blogger AIG said...

I'm sure this idea will go places. What everyone wants to do is hang around a homeless guy (or more likely some hipster, but what's the difference) for 15 minutes while accessing information on their valuable computer, instead of going to one of the 2 dozen coffee shops on every Austin street corner for free wireless and a chair.

 
At 3/15/2012 3:50 PM, Blogger misterjosh said...

This was on the Daily Show yesterday. Stewart pissed me off because he went off and said these companies were doing something evil.

Hey Stewart - how about you go out there and actually ask a homeless person if he feels bad about being paid to help provide wireless service.

 
At 3/15/2012 4:03 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

I was surprised about that too, especially since Stewart has some pretty libertarian views.

 
At 3/15/2012 5:09 PM, Blogger AIG said...

You people still have the patience to watch John Steward? I haven't seen his show since 2008.

 
At 3/15/2012 5:40 PM, Blogger kmg said...

Yeah, this is silly. Particularly when Starbucks and McDonalds have free Wi-Fi (and you don't *have* to buy anything to use the Wi-Fi, if that is the clincher).

Paying homeless people $10/hour to clean up street trash is a more practical idea that was tried 15+ years ago, and even that didn't go anywhere.

 
At 3/15/2012 8:02 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

how does a homeless person buy a contract for a MiFi?

 
At 3/15/2012 9:32 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has a better idea...

 
At 3/16/2012 2:01 AM, Blogger Michael E. Marotta said...

If you never visited Austin for South by Southwest then you cannot appreciate the potential. It is true that "every street corner" has some kind of shop with WIFI (i.e., many are available), but the music, cinema, round tables, etc., etc., of SXSW are not just downtown, but all over town, so you may or may not be on a convenient corner. Then you have to get into a shop. ... Everything is crowded for this. Also, some places button up for this day or that event and only let you in if you have a SXSW badge. And like many western towns, Austin is l-a-r-g-e 10 blocks to the mile (not 20 like in the East), so to get to that free WIFI in a shop, you might have to walk 100 meters ... not a big deal, unless you are already waiting in line here not there... The homeless guy can be a real convenience.

And if not, then not. The thing about the market is that one size need not fit all. That's the govern-mentality way to see a problem and solution. Don't use the homeless guy. Goto Starbucks. Fine. Thom McAn carries sandals and boots, but if you want Birkenstocks or Tony Lamas, you have to go somewhere else. No hotdogs or pizza at McDonald's either...

 
At 3/16/2012 2:38 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

juandos: "Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has a better idea..."

That's brotherly love for you. What else would you expect from a mayor named Nutter?

I suppose it's some misguided attempt to avoid city liability for the deaths of thousands of homeless people from food poisoning.

 
At 3/16/2012 6:26 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

how does a homeless person buy a contract for a MiFi?

From my understanding, this program was advertised at shelters and the like, those people interested were put into contact with the company and then go out to the streets.

 
At 3/16/2012 6:31 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Yeah, this is silly. Particularly when Starbucks and McDonalds have free Wi-Fi (and you don't *have* to buy anything to use the Wi-Fi, if that is the clincher).

Paying homeless people $10/hour to clean up street trash is a more practical idea that was tried 15+ years ago, and even that didn't go anywhere.


I'd argue this is more practicable. Every nerd, geek, and techie leave their parent's basements and brave the sunlight to attend (forgive my joke. I am a nerd who went to this with my geek girlfriend :-P ). Places like Starbucks and McDonalds do have free wi-fi, but what happens when those places are jam packed? So, just like anywhere there is demand, a market develops. This is a great example of the great power of spontaneous market creation that makes the free market so powerful. A top down approach like cleaning the streets didn't work because there was no demand.

 
At 3/16/2012 9:26 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

this is a PR stunt.

no way there is a real business model there.

 
At 3/16/2012 9:48 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

>>> Stewart has some pretty libertarian views.

In your dreams. Stewart is about as libertarian as Bill Mahar.

 
At 3/16/2012 4:12 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

I concur with morganovich, I can't see this as worthwhile.

It might function well as a PR device, but it would make far more sense to just put the things in regularly located, fixed locations on poles, as has been suggested and/or done in some areas.

Why would you want your mobile service availability to change unreliably? Do you really want to lose your web connection because the homeless guy has walked too far down the street?

That's one of the biggest problems/"weak areas" with cellular atm, inconsistencies in both voice and data. It's how the different services tend to compete at the moment, arguing over who has the best coverage.

P.S., is the city subsidizing this, or is it just something the companies are doing for themselves?

 
At 3/16/2012 6:31 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"I suppose it's some misguided attempt to avoid city liability for the deaths of thousands of homeless people from food poisoning"...

Well ron h I don't think its at all misguided...

Having homeless hanging around one's place of business can't help increase walk-in traffic looking to spend money...

Philly needs the business traffic...

Now if people were serious about the homeless wouldn't they use their own money to put the homeless in homes and not salve the consciences with the donation of a small handful of change?

 
At 3/16/2012 9:28 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

juandos,

I missed that part. You're right.

Brian Jenkins, who objects to the Mayors planned restriction misses the point.

"The fact that city of Philadelphia is saying now that the homeless don’t have the right to eat on the Ben Franklin Parkway or eat around Center City is a clear violation of civil rights..."

No one suggests that the homeless can't EAT on city property, only that they can't BE FED there. Those who receive sandwiches outside city limits & carry them to downtown, are just fine. :)

And the Mayor is right. When a person is homeless and hungry, there's no reason they can't expect to dine with dignity. At least provide them with silverware and clothe napkins with those sandwiches, for god sake!


"Now if people were serious about the homeless wouldn't they use their own money to put the homeless in homes and not salve the consciences with the donation of a small handful of change?"

Well of course they would, but we know they are only serious about using YOUR money, not their own.

 
At 3/16/2012 11:58 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"Well of course they would, but we know they are only serious about using YOUR money, not their own"...

Ahhh, so true ron h...

Maybe the homeless should consider this form of housing that has been made more popular now since 'hopey-changey' has opened new vistas for all of us...

 

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