Google balloons to help restore Puerto Rico's cell networks

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Loon balloons have already been successfully launched in Peru back in May, providing Internet connectivity in flood zones around Lima, Chimbote, and Piura.

The Federal Communications Commission yesterday granted Alphabet-owned Project Loon an experimental license to operate in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands for the goal of helping the islands regain connectivity. But with its aircraft still in the testing phase, the company said Friday that the engineers it's sent to Puerto Rico are focused on providing support to NetHope's teams. The FCC said on Friday that 83% of cell sites remain out of service, while wireless communications company are deploying temporary sites. "It is critical that we adopt a coordinated and comprehensive approach to support the rebuilding of communications infrastructure", said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a statement.

The FCC license comes as Puerto Rico struggles to recover from the devastating affects of Hurricane Maria.

Separately, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said on Twitter that he had a "great initial conversation" with Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla Inc. It's dedicated to repairing damage caused by the entire season's slew of storms, but will focus on fixing the communications networks on the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the latter of which was so damaged that nearly 90 percent of its cell towers were downed by Hurricane Maria.

Musk said he was diverting resources from a semi-truck project to fix Model 3 bottlenecks and "increase battery production for Puerto Rico & other affected areas".

As Wired points out, Alphabet used the balloons to provide phone service in Peru after flooding ravaged the country, but Puerto Rico might be a little tougher. It partners with local telecommunications companies to transmit high-speed internet from high-altitude balloons.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis testified in Congress on Tuesday that there are "over 10,000 troops" in Puerto Rico.

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