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FCC Approves Alphabet's Project Loon for Hurricane-Devastated Puerto Rico

FCC Approves Alphabet's Project Loon for Hurricane-Devastated Puerto Rico

Federal communications officials hope that an innovative project created to bring internet access to remote areas could help restore Puerto Rico's cellular service.

According to Wired, the company's "Project Loon" initiative will help replace thousands of cellular data towers that were knocked out of service on the Caribbean island during the recent hurricane.

Project Loon, which has been led by Google's parent company, would provide cellular service through transmitters mounted to durable balloons, much like weather balloons. Project Loon obtained consent agreements to use land mobile radio (LMR) radio spectrum in the 900-MHz band from existing carriers operating within Puerto Rico.

"Overall, 81.7 percent (virtually no change from 81.9 percent yesterday) of cell sites are out of service", the FCC stated in a report on the island's recovery efforts.

Pai explained, "We need to take innovative approaches to help restore connectivity on the island".

Project Loon is a part of Alphabet's X division, which develops its nontraditional "moonshot" products.




Pai went on to note that the service could connect hurricane victims with loved ones, but also with emergency services and life-saving information. Google has not released how many balloons it will be using in Puerto Rico, but in a statement to the online publication Engadget, it said it is trying to team up with a local telecommunications company, as the airborne equipment needs to be integrated with equipment on the ground in order to work.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk talked Friday with Puerto Rico's Gov. Ricardo Rosselló about assisting in fix of the island's power grid with solar-powered batteries. That permission came from the Federal Communications Commission in the form of an experimental license that sailed through the commission bureaucracy in days and was approved on Oct 6. We've been making solid progress on this next step and would like to thank everyone who's been lending a hand. A similar arrangement in March was tested in Peru earlier this year after extreme rains and flooding hit the nation.

Back in 2015, CivSource reported on a new Google project to provide internet access via high-powered balloons.

Project Loon will be facing several challenges in Puerto Rico. In Peru, it was already testing the balloons with local telco Telefonica before tragedy struck.

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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