Google gets OK to use bal­loons to aid Puerto Rico

The Commercial Appeal - - Viewpoint -

USA TO­DAY

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.

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