Google Balloons Will Help Restore Puerto Rico's Cell Service

Paragon Space Dev. Corp./REX/Shutterstock
Nearly three weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, 90 percent of the island is still without power and the US Federal Communications Commission says that 83 percent of cell sites remain out of service. On Friday, the FCC approved an application from Alphabet (Google's parent company) to use high-altitude balloons in order to provide cell and internet coverage on the devastated island.
Alphabet, which launched Project Loon in 2013, uses solar-powered, high-altitude balloons to provide internet service in remote regions. In an FCC filing, the company said it's working to "support licensed mobile carriers’ restoration of limited communications capability" in Puerto Rico.
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On Friday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced he was creating a Hurricane Recovery Task Force dedicated to repairing damage caused by this year's storms. The efforts will be focused on fixing the communication networks on the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
"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 statement.
Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rossello tweeted on Friday that he had a "great initial conversation with @elonmusk tonight. Teams are now talking; exploring opportunities. Next steps soon to follow."
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company will send battery installers to Puerto Rico in order to help restore power on the island. "The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too," he tweeted on Thursday. "Such a decision would be in the hands of the PR govt, PUC, any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of PR."
In late September, Tesla sent hundreds of batteries to Puerto Rico that can store power generated by solar panels.
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