Parking lots have become a digital lifeline

Mary Anne Mendoza, 26, a doctoral student at the University of California, Irvine, shares the least expensive internet service available with her mother and sister in their two-bedroom apartment near the college. When her mother, an M.B.A. candidate, is on a videoconference call, and her sister is online for an undergraduate class, the Wi-Fi at home slows to a crawl. As a result, Ms. Mendoza, who also teaches political science at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, has been driving to the parking lot of a nearby Starbucks to get online. “In my car, I get the privacy I need, and the quality of service is better,” she said.