Google Is Sending Internet Balloons to Puerto Rico to Bring Communication Back to the Island
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After Hurricane Maria left Puerto Rico without clean drinking water, limited forms of communication, and 80% of the island without electricity, people all over the country, including big name celebrities, banded together to raise funds for the ravaged U.S Territory. Now, Google is stepping up efforts to help with Internet balloons.
Google’s parent company Alphabet announced last Friday that their stratospheric balloons are currently bringing Internet service to areas of Puerto Rico with non-functioning cellphone towers. “Project Loon,” which engineered the advanced technology, allows for basic communication and data usage in collaboration with AT&T.
“This is the first time we have used our new machine learning powered algorithms to keep balloons clustered over Puerto Rico.” Alastair Westgarth, head of Project Loon, said. “So we’re still learning how best to do this. As we get more familiar with the constantly shifting winds in this region, we hope to keep the balloons over areas where connectivity is needed for as long as possible.”
According to Alphabet spokeswoman Libby Leahy more balloons are in commute to the island from Nevada. The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates interstate communications, has authorized the company to bring 30 balloons to the remote areas. “We’re grateful for the support of the FCC and the Puerto Rican authorities as we work hard to see if it’s possible to use Loon balloons to bring emergency connectivity to the island during this time of need,” Leahy told TechCrunch in a statement.
Google’s Alphabet isn’t the only technology company aiding recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. Facebook, who’s founder Mark Zuckerberg pledged to donate $1.5 million to relief organizations, is sending their connectivity team to the island to help bring Internet service back to affected areas.