WASHINGTON: The US Federal Communications Commission reported late on Friday it had approved Alphabet Inc’s application to provide emergency cellular service to Puerto Rico through Google balloons.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico has struggled to regain telecommunications services but it took a long time. The FCC said on Friday that 83 percent of cell controls remain out of service, while wireless communications company are trying to deploy temporary sites.
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Alphabet, which announced its Project Loon in 2k13 to use solar-powered, high-altitude balloons to provide internet service in regions where internet connectivity is weak, said in an FCC filing it was working to “support licensed mobile carriers’ restoration of limited communications capability” in Puerto Rico.
Earlier Friday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced he was forming a Hurricane Recovery Task Force with emphasizing addressing challenges facing Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
“It is critical that we adopt a coordinated and comprehensive approach to support the rebuilding of communications infrastructure and restoration of communications services,” Pai said in statement.
Separately, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said in a Twitter posting late on Friday that he had a “great initial conversation with @elonmusk tonight. Teams are now talking; exploring opportunities. Next steps soon to follow.”
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 – making digital life harder in the area.
Musk said he was diverting resources from a semi-truck project to fix Model 3 bottlenecks and “increase battery production for Puerto Rico and other affected areas.”