The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) yesterday approved an experimental license to tech giant Google to provide cellular telephone service in Puerto Rico through its Loon project in response to the emergency caused by Hurricane Maria, the agency head Matthew Berry wrote in a tweet.
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, Reuters reported.
Puerto Rico is only one of the many islands devastated by a string of powerful Atlantic hurricanes that hit the Caribbean and Florida in recent months. But in earlier statements to Mashable, a Loon spokesman said the Puerto Rico effort would be "a little more complicated because we're starting from scratch". But ahead of the floods, Loon had already been working with Telefonica, the country's largest cell and data provider.
30 "Loon" balloons will float 20 kms above the earth in the stratosphere, relaying communications between Alphabet's own ground stations connected to the surviving wireless networks and users' handsets. And for large portions of the island, cell coverage is still a pipe dream, too. Which brings us to the legal hurdle. While food, shelter, health, and safety definitely take higher priority, having a stable Internet connection might actually help in delivering those faster than without. Loon recently rolled out internet and LTE service in Peru after flooding there, reportedly providing coverage for an area roughly the size of Switzerland. Each balloon can talk to any other balloon, and users on the ground are free to connect to the nearest balloon offering the strongest signal.
Thanks to Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico's cellular infrastructure has been badly damaged. In the meantime, Musk is sending some of his team, and training locals as fast as possible. Alphabet has begun ramping up pressure for moonshots to generate revenue, partly in hopes of diversifying beyond the search-driven advertising business that still makes up the overwhelming majority of its profits.
As Google and Project Loon arrive in Puerto Rico, they'll be starting with nothing in place. Alphabet says it is developing temporary software fixes over the air for some devices, such as LG, Samsung and Apple. "President Trump and I know this".