08 Octubre, 2017
Last week, the Project Loon team revealed that it was exploring the possibility of deploying balloons to provide "emergency connectivity" to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. It could help provide the people of Puerto Rico with access to cellular service to connect with loved ones and access life-saving information.
Libby Leahy, a company spokesperson, told TechCrunch said, "We're grateful for the support of the FCC and the Puerto Rican authorities as we work hard to see if it's possible to use Loon balloons to bring emergency connectivity to the island during this time of need".
Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez has said that "The devastation in Puerto Rico has set us back nearly 20 to 30 years", and reports say that even after two weeks since Maria made landfall over the island, only less than 12% of the region has electricity, only 55% of Puerto Ricans have access to drinking water, and only 44% have working mobile connectivity. In the latter country, Project Loon was already testing with a local carrier before the nation encountered heavy flooding.
In its application to the government, Alphabet said that it wanted to "support licensed mobile carriers' restoration of limited communications capability". The balloons will also help restore service in the US Virgin Islands, which were slammed by the storm as well.
"It is critical that we adopt a coordinated and comprehensive approach to support the rebuilding of communications infrastructure and restoration of communications services", Pai said in a statement. To deliver signal to people's devices, Loon needs be integrated with a telco partner's network - the balloons can't do it alone. "I'm glad the FCC was able to grant this experimental license with dispatch and I urge wireless carriers to cooperate with Project Loon to maximize this effort's chances of success". Earlier today, Alphabet's X division was granted permission by the FCC to provide emergency LTE coverage to the island.
The project - called Loon - could help restore some communications capabilities after Hurricane Maria wiped out Puerto Rico's infrastructure. The group will be rounded out with representatives from bureaus and offices throughout the agency.