Google to use balloons to provide Puerto Rico mobile phone service

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According to Wired, Project Loon-which is described as "a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, created to extend Internet connectivity to people in rural and remote areas worldwide"-would allow Puerto Rico residents to get voice and data service".

The Federal Communications Commission yesterday granted Alphabet-owned Project Loon an experimental license to operate in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands for the goal of helping the islands regain connectivity.

The #ProjectLoon team at X is exploring if it's possible to bring emergency connectivity to Puerto Rico.

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The need for help in restoring power and communication after Hurricane Maria is great: The Puerto Rican energy authority reported Saturday that about 88 percent of the island is still without power. In a filing with the FCC, Google wrote that it wanted approval to use the balloons to "support licensed mobile carriers' restoration of limited communications capability" in Puerto Rico.

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.

As Wired points out, Alphabet used the balloons to provide phone service in Peru after flooding ravaged the country, but Puerto Rico might be a little tougher. In a report issued yesterday, the FCC revealed that 83 percent of cell towers on the island are still down, with the US Virgin Islands in a similar state. Loon requires local partners to work, and in the case of the Peru project, relationships with wireless providers and other players were already in place. It's a different story for Puerto Rico. "We've been making solid progress on this next step and would like to thank everyone who's been lending a hand".

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