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Posted: 1:58 p.m. Thursday, March 15, 2012

Homeless wi-fi hotspots: Opportunity or exploitation?

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By Clark Howard


Looking for a great way to make the Internet work better? Put the homeless to work as hotspots!

Whenever you have big tech conventions, the wireless industry can't seem to provide enough capacity for everyone with their 12 gadgets. So at South by Southwest (SXSW), the homeless were employed as portable mobile hotspots.

The going rate was roughly $2 for providing 15 minutes of Internet connection, plus a daily stipend of $20. SXSW is an annual music, film and interactive festival in Austin, Texas. Several years ago, Twitter made its debut at the festival.

Predictably, people were outraged over this year's homeless hotspots. Yet when the media interviewed the homeless people who participated, they didn't report feeling exploited or outraged. In fact, they felt quite the opposite.

"I feel that I was doing my job, and I did it successfully," one homeless man told The Austin-American Statesman. "It was a job to us, and we did it to the best of our ability. We're just homeless people trying to provide a service to the community."

My take? I personally don't see a moral dilemma here. We have become a society where people base so much dignity and self worth on what job they're filling. Yet you should seize opportunity wherever it is.

I can't wait until the next edition of Clark Stinks to read some of your posts about my insensitivity, cruelty and all the rest. The reality is they solved a problem by being hotspots. If I'm being cruel, let me have. But it is opportunity for them.

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