Google helps Hurricane Maria-affected Puerto Rico with its Project Loon


The company said that the "Project Loon team has been working with the Government of Puerto Rico, the FCC, the FAA, FEMA, spectrum partners and worldwide aviation authorities to bring balloon-powered internet to the island" in the weeks following the disaster.

Google's parent company is pushing with this plan so that residents in the island, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria, will have a way to contact their friends and family and vice versa. It is still a work-in-progress, but Westgarth explains that Project Loon will try to keep the balloons available over Puerto Rico for as long as they're needed.

Now that Project Loon is rolling out, the people who are in stricken areas can expect to see services that enable them to send text messages and access the internet for limited browsing. The urgency in Puerto Rico really allows Alphabet's project to shine and prove itself viable.

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The company has a handful of balloons in the area and more are on the way, spokeswoman Libby Leahy said.

Loon made a point to thank the following entities as well: High Tech Communications Services, MilkyWay Communications, North Sight Communications, PDV Spectrum Holding Company, Space Data Spectrum Holdings, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority/PREPA Networks, Sensus Spectrum and Spok. As of Friday, 68 per cent of cell sites remained out of service, the FCC said.

Included in Loon's FCC application were letters from 800 and 900 MHz license holders in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands providing their consent for Loon to use frequencies granted to them.

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According to Alphabet, it's teaming up with the Government of Puerto Rico, the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Aviation Authority, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and other cellular spectrum partners and global aviation authorities to make this possible. Alphabet's Project Loon received an experimental license to provide emergency service. Per a recent update from Project Loon head Alastair Westgarth, this marks the first time the group's machine learning algorithms have been used to cluster these balloons over Puerto Rico.

"The search giant announced some balloons from its "Project Loon" programme had been deployed over Puerto Rico, in an effort to provide people with limited internet access", CNET reported.

Alphabet has previously deployed "Loon" to provide emergency phone service in Peru following flooding there earlier this year.

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