Prevalence of laptops makes long bus rides into quiet study halls: This is the kind of technology coverage, I'd like to see more of, showing how a couple separate pieces of tech when combined produce a big change in people's lives. Students in Vail, Arizona, ride on a Wi-Fi bus, which uses a mobile broadband router (Autonet) to power their laptops en route.
The longer battery life in laptops, which have become ever cheaper, coupled with greater coverage of the fastest flavors of 3G, mean that students can actually get real work done that requires an Internet connection. The bus driver reports less rowdiness, and teachers are seeing more homework.
For business travelers, ubiquitous access in planes, trains, buses, and ferries might still mean an extension of the work day instead of a displacement of formerly useless time into productive activities. But for students on buses, the time can be lost--and then displaced into evening hours, reducing their time for unstructured activities.
Lest you think this is a rural issue, my wife recently calculated that when our 5 year old heads to middle school in several years, the busing system would probably require he spend 80 minutes on a bus to get to a school about a 10-minute drive away.