It's been nearly two months since Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico, and the island is still in the midst of a long road to recovery. While most of its people have gained access to potable water, more than 25 percent of Puerto Rico is still without reliable telecommunications service, cutting them off from the outside world.
Google's parent company Alphabet is trying to help return connection for the people of Puerto Rico. Project Loon, the aerial internet endeavor from the X innovation lab, was given FCC permission and began launching its LTE-beaming balloons over the island last month.
After a few weeks of service, Alphabet says the efforts have paid off. Project Loon's reps claim the balloons have been able to bring basic internet connectivity to more than 100,000 people in Puerto Rico.
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The Loon team joined forces with AT&T and T-Mobile for the efforts, which sends the balloons some 65,000 feet in the air to create a network that relays LTE signals to telecom partners on the ground below (in this case, AT&T and T-Mobile). People on the ground can then access the internet using LTE-connected devices.
This augmented connectivity is essential for those who haven't yet regained access to normal communications, so the project's effectiveness has been extremely important. There's still much work to begun to bring Puerto Rico back up to full strength, so hopefully, special projects like Loon can continue to serve as a temporary reprieve as larger recovery efforts are undertaken.