Alphabet's 'Project Loon' restores basic communication in Puerto Rico

Alphabet's 'Project Loon' restores basic communication in Puerto Rico

It marks the first time the X project within Google parent Alphabet has used its new machine learning-powered algorithms to keep balloons clustered over Puerto Rico, and it's still a learning process, according to a blog post by Alastair Westgarth, head of Project Loon.

According to Alphabet, it's teaming up with the Government of Puerto Rico, the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Aviation Authority, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and other cellular spectrum partners and global aviation authorities to make this possible.

The Project Loon team has been working with the government of Puerto Rico, as well as the FCC, FAA, FEMA, spectrum partners and worldwide aviation authorities to bring service to the island that was hit by Hurricane Maria last month. Some people with LTE enabled phones can now have access to the internet and send text messages.

Last month, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane and caused significant damage to the island's connectivity infrastructure. The effort took a lot of cooperation from several other entities, to cut through the red tape as quickly as possible. This isn't the first time Project Loon balloons have been used to restore basic communications following a disaster - that distinction goes to the team's work in Peru past year following extensive flooding. As such, the team is upfront about not being sure exactly how well it will work.

Dude dressed as Pikachu arrested at White House
Combs, charged with one count of misdemeanour unlawful entry, could not be reached for comment. This should serve as a warning: Not even Pokemon can evade the Secret Service.

This month, the US Federal Communications Commission approved Alphabet's application to provide emergency cellular service to Puerto Rico using up to 30 balloons. The vast majority of Puerto Rico's cell towers were knocked offline by the hurricane, leaving most residents without mobile communication and Internet connectivity. It will keep the internet-beaming balloons in areas that need connectivity for as long as possible. These authorities allowed Project Loon operatives to send small balloons from its launch site in Nevada to Puerto Rico.

Project Loon is bringing this emergency Internet connectively to parts of Puerto Rico in collaboration with AT&T. Today the Axios report further noted that "Apple is issuing a cellular settings update that will allow iPhones to activate the now unused Band 8 to access the Loon-based service".

The inflatable part of the balloon is called a balloon envelope made from sheets of polyethylene plastic that are 49ft (15 metres) wide and 40ft (12 metres) tall when inflated.

High Tech Communications Services Inc., MilkyWay Communications LLC, North Sight Communications Inc., PDV Spectrum Holding Company, LLC, Space Data Spectrum Holdings, LLC, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority/PREPA Networks LLC, Sensus Spectrum LLC, and Spok, Inc.

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