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.