Project Loon cleared to help restore wireless in Puerto Rico

Passengers await news on the status of a flight from Houston to San Juan in Bush Intercontinental Airport on Thursday

Passengers await news on the status of a flight from Houston to San Juan in Bush Intercontinental Airport on Thursday

Alphabet will use 30 Loon balloons to float more than 12 miles above the ground that will help connect the island's wireless networks to users' phones.

Mr Musk said the company would send more battery installers to Puerto Rico to help restore power after Hurricane Maria knocked out all power on the island over two weeks ago.

"It is critical that we adopt a coordinated and comprehensive approach to support the rebuilding of communications infrastructure and restoration of communications services", Pai said in statement.

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Alphabet launched Project Loon in 2013 in an effort to provide service to people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps and bring them back online after disasters.

We're grateful for the support of the FCC and the Puerto Rican authorities as we work hard to see if it's possible to use Loon balloons to bring emergency connectivity to the island during this time of need. Private companies have stepped up to that challenge, like Tesla sending its Powerwall batteries and technicians (an effort that may be upgraded to building out PR's next grid, given the positive Twitter exchange between Governor Ricardo Rossello and Tesla CEO Elon Musk).

According to the FCC, 83 percent of cell sites in Puerto Rico are out of service, 57 percent for the US Virgin Islands, and 100 percent for St. John.

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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. The company deployed balloons to Peru earlier this year after flooding destroyed homes and displaced thousands of people in that country.

Project Loon works by having telecommunication partners beam up service to a balloon, which in turn gets relayed across a network of balloons and then directly to LTE devices on the ground. In Puerto Rico, things are still in the planning stages.

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