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Big Tech has big plans to help reconnect Puerto Rico

Pretty Lights’ Puerto Rican Festival Has Just Been Cancelled
     
     
              Oct 5 2017

The US Federal Communications Commission said late on Friday it had approved Alphabet Inc's application to provide emergency cellular service to Puerto Rico through balloons.

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

"FCC issues experimental license to Google to provide emergency cellular service in Puerto Rico through Project Loon balloons", Matthew Berry, chief of staff to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, wrote on Twitter.

The FCC said on Friday that 83 percent of cell sites remain out of service, while wireless communications company are deploying temporary sites.

Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rossello seems open to the idea but there will be a few regulatory and political hurdles to overcome first before Tesla's SolarCity firm can get to work.

Though the Loon technology is not entirely proven, it could help speed the restoration of vital communications as the US territory works to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Thousands of phone towers were destroyed in Puerto Rico due to the hurricane, and Google will fly 30 balloons over the island to restore phone communication.

Musk agreed. Hours later, he announced he was delaying the unveiling of Tesla's new semi-truck and diverting resources, in part to "increase battery production for Puerto Rico and other affected areas".

On September 29th the X team said it was looking into ways to help Puerto Rico with Project Loon, similar to the way it helped provide service in Peru after extreme rains and flooding struck the nation in March.

The project works by ground stations connecting to the local internet infrastructure and beaming signals to the balloons.

In 2016, a test site was set up in Puerto Rico to launch what the project called "a handful of test balloons".