Google to Provide Puerto Rico With Cell Service Using Balloons

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In Puerto Rico, things are still in the planning stages. The license extends from October 6th until April 4th, 2018, and it was granted to Ben Wojtowicz, a software engineer and member of Alphabet's X lab who works on Project Loon.

A Google Project Loon internet balloon is seen at the Google I/O 2016 developers conference in Mountain View, California May 19, 2016.

It was the strongest hurricane to hit the USA in over a century and the 155mph winds left Puerto Rico entirely without power. It last deployed the balloons to provide emergency phone service in Peru after a flood displaced thousands of people in March.

Puerto Rico is still reeling from the devastation from Hurricane Maria, which has left billions of dollars worth of damage in its wake, flooded the country and destroyed a lot of the buildings. Helping speed up the process is the Loon team's existing involvement with telecommunications provider Telefonica on the island.

On Friday, 83 percent of the island's cell sites were out of service, according to the FCC - down only slightly from 84.6 percent the day before. "I'm glad the FCC was able to grant this experimental license with dispatch and I urge wireless carriers to cooperate with Project Loon to maximize this effort's chances of success".

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AT&T has started using satellite links to carry millions of phone calls and text messages from clusters of temporary cellular radios to the mainland, a spokesman said.

As Puerto Rico and its people continue to reel from the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria, two of the world's biggest tech companies have outlined plans for bringing power back to the Caribbean island and USA territory.

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.

-Jack Nicas contributed to this article.

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