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Google to Provide Emergency Cell Service to Puerto Rico Via Balloons

08 October, 2017, 00:50 | Author: Carla Brady
  • Passengers await news on the status of a flight from Houston to San Juan in Bush Intercontinental Airport on Thursday

One of the odd projects that has come out of X is Project Loon. "We've been making solid progress on this next step and would like to thank everyone who's been lending a hand".

"This is the first time that balloon powered internet has connected tens of thousands of people", Alastair Westgarth, head of Project Loon, wrote on the project's blog. However, Loon had already been testing with Telefonica in Peru, which sped up the process.

Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc, started Project Loon, which was created to give internet connectivity to people in rural places and is now being used for disaster relief.

Google is the latest company to bring relief to Puerto Rico as the island deals with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The balloons that were deployed in Peru, in fact, were launched from Puerto Rico.

"The objective of the [Special Temporary Authority] is to support licensed mobile carriers' restoration of limited communications capability in areas of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria", the license reads.

To help communications the FCC as authorized the use of Project Loon over the territory.




"That's why we need to take innovative approaches to help restore connectivity on the island", he added, urging wireless carriers to "cooperate with Project Loon to maximize this effort's chances of success".

AT&T has started using satellite links to carry millions of phone calls and text messages from clusters of temporary cellular radios to the mainland, a spokesman said.

Though the Loon technology is not entirely proven, it could help speed the restoration of vital communications as the USA territory works to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

Facebook Inc. also has sought to help, sending a connectivity team to Puerto Rico, according to a recent update by founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it had granted Alphabet Inc. permission to use solar power balloons to bring cellular service to the island, which has been left largely without power since Hurricane Maria hit last month.

-Jack Nicas contributed to this article.

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