Google balloons set to bring internet to Puerto Rico


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave Alphabet's Moonshot Factory approval to kick-start so-called Project Loon, which will aim to provide emergency cell services in the United States territory.

There's no official schedule for Project Loon's deployment in Puerto Rico.

The FCC late last week authorized an experimental license for Project Loon, an initiative by Google parent company Alphabet to deploy antennas anywhere in the world by affixing them to large balloons. The FCC has granted Google the authority to use existing spectrum on the island in the 900 MHz band, with the permission of local carriers already on the island. The Federal Communications Commission said Saturday that 82 percent of cell sites remain out in Puerto Rico; 58 percent are out of service in the US Virgin Islands.

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"More than two weeks after Hurricane Maria struck, millions of Puerto Ricans are still without access to much-needed communications services", FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk often takes to Twitter to mull over ideas, but on Friday his musings about sending his company's solar-powered batteries to help restore Puerto Rico's power attracted the attention of the island's governor.

"In response to the recent flooding in Peru, Project Loon has been working together with Telefonica and the Peruvian Government to deliver basic internet connectivity to tens of thousands of people in affected areas around Lima, Chimbote, and Piura", Project Loon said in May. In a statement issued to Engadget, a spokesperson for Alphabet's X lab said the team needs to work with a partner network of a local telecom to make it all work. The balloons will fly some 12 miles above the islands, with each providing coverage over more than 3,000 square miles. But it's not clear when-or if-the company will be able to provide service to the hurricane-damaged island, as the FCC license is just one step in the process.

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Google began testing Project Loon - which launches transmitters under high-altitude balloons to provide large rural areas with low-priced broadband - in February previous year in Sri Lanka after reaching a spectrum deal with the government there. We've been making solid progress on this next step and would like to thank everyone who's been lending a hand.

Google's Project Loon balloons being inflated. Project Loon is part of Alphabet's X division, formerly known as "Google X".

Other approaches include Facebook's deployment of a "connectivity team" to help restore emergency telecommunications, an initiative CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in a Facebook post September 27.

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