FCC OKs Alphabet's Balloon Internet Project to Help Reconnect Puerto Rico

Google's Project Loon uses balloons to send mobile phone signals to remote areas
Google via AFP

Google's Project Loon uses balloons to send mobile phone signals to remote areas Credit Google via AFP

The FCC has given Alphabet an experimental license to deploy its Project Loon service to Puerto Rico, which is on the beginning of a long road to recovery after two massive storms brushed the island, removing almost all of the power and communications grid with it. Project Loon is a network of balloons that provides internet connectivity to users on the ground, led by Google parent company Alphabet. 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 FCC's Mr. Pai has taken several other steps to address hurricane-related damage, including providing up to some $77 million in federal Universal Service Fund money to restore services in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

FCC boss Ajit Pai calls Project Loon an "innovative approach to help restore connectivity".

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. "To deliver signal to people's devices, Loon needs be integrated with a telco partner's network - the balloons can't do it alone", Libby Leahy, X spokesperson, said in an emailed statement. The huge balloons are sent 12 miles from Earth into the stratosphere.

With disaster relief efforts still in crisis mode in Puerto Rico, a number of private companies and citizens are doing what they can to help the island's residents. But with luck, Project Loon's simple solution could speed recovery efforts and help save lives. According to the license, "t$3 he goal of the STA is to support licensed mobile carriers' restoration of limited communications capability in areas of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands (MTA025) affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria". "We've been making solid progress on this next step". "Using this data, our software algorithms are able to determine which altitude has a wind pattern that gives us the best chance of keeping our balloons close to the areas where we want them", Project Loon said at the time. In addition to testing in New Zealand and in Indonesia, the X lab in May restored Internet connectivity to tens of thousands in flooded areas of Peru.

"In March, Peru was battered by extreme rains and flooding, with the government declaring more than 800 provinces to be in a state of emergency".

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