The network is fast, and there are plenty of places to plug your laptop in-including a wireless network in some buildings on campus. Rensselaer has a reputation of being one of the most "wired" campuses in the country, and it is a reputation well earned. The high-speed network provides instant access to the Web and also to the RPI server, both of which are invaluable tools for students.
Some classes will require a lot of online coursework, while in others, you won't touch your computer at all. One thing to remember is to check your e-mail regularly, though. The majority of outside communication between students, professors, and TAs occurs through e-mail, and if you miss an important one, you could miss a deadline or schedule change. It's a lot easier than going to a professor's office, though, so take advantage. The laptop requirement-though it can be cumbersome, awkward, and expensive at first-is really a great tool for students. Using computers to your advantage becomes second nature before Thanksgiving break of your freshman year.