09 Oct Puerto Rico cellphone service is still out. Can Alphabet’s Project Loon restore it?
Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is hoping to help restore cell service and internet connectivity to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands through its high-flying Project Loon balloons. In the wake of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, residents of the islands lack access to basic supplies like food and running water, and 83% of people still lack cell reception. Alphabet aims to fix that with its so-crazy-it-just-might-work plan to use balloons, which fly in the stratosphere thousands of feet in the air, to relay high-speed internet from a telecommunications center through the balloon network, to users’ LTE-equipped phones on the ground. The plan worked in a flood-ravaged Peru earlier this year, and they hope to replicate that success closer to home. Alphabet already has experience working in Puerto Rico, having sent one of their balloon autolaunchers to the island back in 2016.
BREAKING: FCC issues experimental license to Google to provide emergency cellular service in Puerto Rico through Project Loon balloons.
— Matthew Berry (@matthewberryfcc) October 6, 2017
Now, the FCC has given approval for the plan that will hopefully restore some internet access to the islands. To make the plan a reality, though, Alphabet still needs a telecommunications partner to work with, but as the private sector rushes to the island’s aid, it seems likely that a company will step forward to help. Alphabet isn’t the only tech company doing their part in Puerto Rico. Tesla sent hundreds of its Powerwall battery systems to Puerto Rico, along with employees to help install them. Facebook sent its connectivity staff to the island to help in recovery and reconstruction, too. Want to help? Here’s how you can help Puerto Rico right now.
Source: Fast Company