Large Internet-Beaming Balloons Might Be Headed To Puerto Rico

On Friday, 83 percent of the island's cell sites were out of service, according to the FCC - down only slightly from 84.6 percent the day before.

The initiative, called Project Loon, uses high-altitude, solar-powered balloons to extend internet service to remote areas.

Loon, part of a series of futuristic projects out of Alphabet's "X" laboratory, was originally created to provide internet coverage in under-developed rural areas.

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With Puerto Rico still reeling from Hurricane Maria, the tech community continues to find ways to help.

Loon is one of Google's original "moonshot efforts created to bring connectivity to remote areas of the world and locales struggling in the aftermath of natural disaster". But if it can get off the ground, Project Loon could be a lifesaver by helping Puerto Rican citizens, officials and rescue workers better communicate. Each balloon can serve nearly 2,000 square miles, and according to reports, that should be enough for service all over the island and perhaps portions of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

"This is the first time that balloon powered internet has connected tens of thousands of people", Alastair Westgarth, head of Project Loon, wrote on the project's blog.

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In Puerto Rico, there is no existing infrastructure to support Loon. It's a different story for Puerto Rico.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it had granted Alphabet Inc. the green light to use solar power balloons to bring cellular service to Puerto Rico, which has struggled to regain communications services since Hurricane Maria hit last month. "To deliver signal to people's devices, Loon needs be integrated with a telco partner's network - the balloons can't do it alone", the spokesperson explains. "We've been making solid progress on this next step and would like to thank everyone who's been lending a hand".

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  • Jill Young