Arizona school board testing "magic" bus

Arizona Daily Star reports that, since November, Vail School District in Southern Arizona has been providing students with wireless access aboard its school buses that cover approximately 400 sq miles of desert.

Described as "magic" by the district's head of technology, Matt Federoff, the system uses a wireless router installed in each bus, just above the front window. This router creates an instant hotspot and is always searching for a cellphone signal. The system, provided by Autonet Mobile is slated for installation into 19 additional buses that service the longest routes managed by the school district. The total cost is approximately $15,000 and includes one year of service.

District students, who have had WiFi in the classroom since 2001, are taking to the new system like ducks to water. Although intended for homework and studying on the long trips to school and inter-connectivity with the classroom on sports trips, students are free to access anything that is deemed appropriate, as the network uses the same filters as the network on campus.

"This makes it possible for the bus ride to be a productive time instead of wasted time," states Superintendent Calvin Baker. "We know some students will use this connection to help entertain themselves, but even then it is something for them to do, making the buses safer."

Autonet CEO, Sterling Pratz, has stated that while designed for private vehicles, they have now adapted the technology for school buses. 25 other school districts have signed up for the service.

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Just to put things into perspective, 400 square miles sounds like much more than it is. It's only a 20 mile * 20 mile square, and the school is likely near the middle of the area it covers, so the longest a student has to ride is probably around 10-15 miles. I doubt that their ride is any longer than 1 hour which is not all that uncommon.

I'm sure it helps keep the kids more tame for the driver, but the way the information is presented makes it sound like the kids are stuck on a bus all day.

Seems kind of pointless. Most homework doesn't require using the internet and doing work on the bus sucks. No, all I see people doing is goofing around online or getting their laptops broken from the bumpy bus ride.

We've had this on our shuttle buses at QUT here in Brisbane for some months us well. I don't think the internet was 3G though. I've no idea how they connect back to the QUT network but network speeds and latency are very good.

This is great... Think about all the kids who have iPod's and Nintendo's in their pockets, now they can WiFi up and keep entertained on long bus rides, some of these kids spend an hour a day on a bus, thats wasted time. As a kid who had an incredibly long ride to school, I wish I had a laptop and wifi to do my homework en-route to school, man, I turned in so many HW assignments that had horrible penmanship because of writing on the bus lol.

warwagon said,
Aww I thought it was going to be like the "Magic School bus" books. So disappointing
Ya that would be awesome if the bus was Magic, Oh well all I can say is that I wish my school was this far ahead in technology

testman said,

No doubt. It'll be the same sort of technology they use on the trains.

From the FAQ page of Autonet;

What kind of speeds can I expect?

Over the 3G network, download speeds average from 400kbps-800kbps. Upload ranges from 128kbps-300kbps. When not on 3G the average download is 120kbps-200kbps and 50kbps-100kbps for upload.