Project Loon balloons, from Google's Alphabet, to aid Puerto Rico

Posted October 08, 2017

Cell service has mostly been down since Hurricane Maria hit the island.

Alphabet Inc has just been given permission to float 30 balloons over USA territory Puerto Rico, providing them with much needed mobile reception and internet.

Musk agreed. Hours later, he announced he was delaying the unveiling of Tesla's new semi-truck and diverting resources, in part to "increase battery production for Puerto Rico and other affected areas". The island, home to almost 3.5 million people, remains crippled by the Category 4 storm that struck last month, which disabled more than 90 percent of Puerto Rico's cell towers and left its communications infrastructure in shambles.

At the time, they noted that deploying to Puerto Rico would be harder than their previous emergency deployment to Peru as they did not have existing infrastructure in place.

The FCC's daily status report also shows significant wireline, TV and radio outages remain in both USA territories.

Alphabet will attempt to provide service in Puerto Rico after the FCC approved their experimental license for Project Loon, an initiative that launches giant balloons with network hardware in them to provide internet access to users on the ground.

Cisco Systems has sent a tactical team and says it is working with local government, emergency responders and service providers to facilitate restoration and recovery efforts. It had partnered with a telecomm company and was testing balloons.

It was the strongest hurricane to hit the United States in over a century and the 155mph winds left Puerto Rico entirely without power. In Puerto Rico, things are still in the planning stages.

Much of the ground work is being spearheaded by nonprofit organizations and small firms with expertise in rural or emergency communications.

Earlier on Friday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced he was forming a Hurricane Recovery Task Force with an emphasis on addressing challenges facing Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. "People know right away".