In a major decision aimed at expediting the process of restoring emergency communication service in Puerto Rico, the US Federal Communications Commission has given Google parent company Alphabet Inc. clearance to deploy its Project Loon balloons over Puerto Rico in order to restore communication service in Island state which has been massively hit by Hurricane Maria. According to multiple reports, communications have been wiped out on the island and there is no electricity on the entire island — and it could remain that way for months.
In its FCC application, Alphabet included letters and emails from eight of the island’s carriers, in which they gave consent for Google to access their frequencies and data, however it is unclear if the island’s telecommunications industry currently has the means to assist Alphabet. Alphabet is yet to figure out deployment timing, but a spokesperson told tech portal wired that “we sorting through a lot of possible options now and are grateful for the support we’re getting on the ground.”
The decision was announced in a series of tweets by Matthew Berry, who serves as Chief of Staff to FCC chairman Ajit Pai. According to reports, thirty Loon balloons will be deployed over 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) above the planet’s service. Each balloon will be able to service a radius of 1,930 square miles, so Alphabet is expecting that it will be able to provide service to the entire island of Puerto Rico, along with parts of the Virgin Islands.
This is not the first the time that an tech giant has been asked to help in emergency, Puerto Rico’s governor has requested that Tesla CEO Elon Musk to restore the island’s electrical grid. Tesla has already deployed hundreds of power wall batteries to the island.
This is not the first that Google balloons are being deployed in emergency like situation, Alphabet has already successfully deployed its Project Loon balloons over Peru, where they were able to provide LTE coverage following the country’s recent flood. The balloons were able to rely on a telecom provider that beamed its signal to the balloons. In Puerto Rico, Google will have to work from scratch as the condition is very dire, most of the communication infrastructure seems to be washed out.