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YouTube Posting Could Result In Huge Cell Phone Bill

An unemployed programmer's "reach out and touch someone" idea stemmed from similar campaigns on the video posting site.
Over the weekend, Ryan Fitzgerald of Southbridge, Mass., was arguably the most popular 20-year-old male in the country as more than 5,000 YouTube visitors contacted him on his cell phone. Today, his free weekend minutes have run out and he is likely to be very unpopular with his cell phone service provider.

"I haven't quite figured out what I'm going to do about it," he told the Boston Globe. "But something needs to be done, because I'm going to end up with a $20,000 phone bill."

The incident began last week when Fitzgerald, an unemployed programmer posted a video on YouTube noting he wanted to "be there" for anyone who wanted to call him.

"Girls, guys, whoever you are, wherever you're from, talk about whatever," he said in the posting. He listed his cell phone number and then the flood of responses began coming in from all over the world.

Fitzgerald said he got the idea from Juan Mann, who launched a "Free Hugs" campaign on YouTube featuring videos of Mann hugging strangers. Another YouTube posting, this one by an Arizona man named Luke Johnson, has attracted nearly 140,000 responses, but Johnson had an "unlimited calls" plan so he won't likely owe anything for receiving the calls.

In spite of the expense, Fitzgerald said he hopes to answer callers, even though his cell phone service is frequently overwhelmed. "I love talking to people," he said. "I just love helping people."

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Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
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Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing