Google Is Using Balloons to Restore Phone Service in Puerto Rico

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Earlier today, Alphabet's X division was granted permission by the FCC to provide emergency LTE coverage to the island.

This move comes just a week after the Project Loon team tweeted that they looking at ways to bring emergency connectivity to Puerto Rico.

Musk, the chief executive of Tesla Inc, said on Friday the company would send more battery installers to Puerto Rico to help restore power after Hurricane Maria knocked out all power on the island over two weeks ago. It last deployed the balloons to provide emergency phone service in Peru after a flood displaced thousands of people in March. 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. As of Friday, 83 percent of cell sites were still out of service. Helping speed up the process is the Loon team's existing involvement with telecommunications provider Telefonica on the island.

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

"The goal of the [Special Temporary Authority] is to support licensed mobile carriers' restoration of limited communications capability in areas of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria", the license reads. The organization has already issues an experimental license for Loon balloons to launch over the devastated islands, but the company says that it may take some time. To deliver signal to people's devices, Loon needs be integrated with a telco partner's network - the balloons can't do it alone. "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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