Google gets OK to use balloons to aid Puerto Rico
The Federal Communications Commission has given Google approval to deploy its Project Loon balloon-based communications system to provide cellular connectivity in hurricane-hit Puerto Rico.
An experimental product from the Google X laboratory, run by parent company Alphabet, Project Loon got an experimental license to help provide emergency cell service in the U.S. territory, FCC chairman Ajit Pai said Saturday.
As of Saturday, 22 of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities had no functioning cell sites at all, according to the FCC. Throughout the U.S. territory, nearly 82 percent of cell sites were out of service, a slight improvement over 83 percent Friday, the FCC says.
Project Loon’s network of high-altitude balloons is meant to beam signals down from more than 12 miles above the earth as a way of connecting remote and rural residents.
Deployment of the balloon system “could help provide the people of Puerto Rico with access to cellular service to connect with loved ones and access life-saving information,” Pai said.