Project Loon cleared to help restore wireless in Puerto Rico

Clyde Nash
October 8, 2017

In two tweets Friday, Matthew Berry, chief of staff of the US Federal Communications Commission, said the FCC had approved the Loon application to provide emergency cellular service to the island.

This move comes just a week after the Project Loon team tweeted that they looking at ways to bring emergency connectivity to Puerto Rico.

Google's parent company is set to launch balloons into the Caribbean skies in an attempt to restore telephone networks in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

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The project was initially announced in 2013, intending to use balloons at high altitudes - and powered by the sun - to get cell service and internet capabilities into remote areas. The balloons have been used previously in flood-stricken Peru to restore cell service, with fantastic results.

Communications remain patchy on the island.

Loon, part of a series of futuristic projects out of Alphabet's "X" laboratory, was originally created to provide internet coverage in under-developed rural areas.

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FCC chairman Ajit Pai said, "It is critical that we adopt a coordinated and comprehensive approach to support the rebuilding of communications infrastructure and restoration of communications services". Now, Alphabet wants to do something similar in Puerto Rico where most people are still without any cell service.

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

In late September, Tesla said it was sending hundreds of batteries that can store power generated by solar panels to Puerto Rico to provide emergency help in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

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Loon balloons work by "relaying communications between Alphabet's own ground stations connected to the surviving wireless networks, and users' handsets".

Other reports by Info About Network

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