Google Is Using Balloons to Restore Phone Service in Puerto Rico

Posted October 08, 2017

The FCC said on Friday that 83 percent of cell sites remain out of service, while wireless communications company are deploying temporary sites. 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.

The project, which is run by research firm X, has provided back-up internet services after natural disasters before.

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Freelance journalist Mark Harris spotted that Project Loon was granted permission earlier today by the FCC to provide the coverage to Puerto Rico.

"FCC issues experimental license to Google to provide emergency cellular service in Puerto Rico through Project Loon balloons", Matthew Berry, the authority's chief of staff, announced on Twitter. Loon needs be integrated with a telco partner's network-the balloons can't do it alone.

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As communication providers that were impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria continue their recovery effort, the FCC has announced the creation of a Hurricane Recovery Task Force.

The helium balloons are expected to deliver emergency LTE cellular reception to allow residents and local governments to contact friends and family, coordinate relief and restoration efforts, and reestablish communication with the outside world. "It is critical that we adopt a coordinated and comprehensive approach to support the rebuilding of communications infrastructure and restoration of communications services". But with its aircraft still in the testing phase, the company said Friday that the engineers it's sent to Puerto Rico are focused on providing support to NetHope's teams. Even weeks later, only 10 percent of the island has power after thousands of phone towers were destroyed in the storm.

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