Internet May Soon Return to Puerto Rico Thanks to Google Spinoff Project Loon
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
The recovery is coming along slowly for Puerto Rico. Two and a half weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island, 88% of residents are still without power and 83% of cell towers are still offline.
But, there’s a solution that just got a green light on Friday. Google’s Project Loon spinoff has received approval from the US Federal Communications Commission to launch a network of balloons to restore cell service to Puerto Rico.
That’s right: balloons.
Originally developed by Google X — the company’s “moonshot” lab — starting in 2011, Project Loon was finally unveiled in 2013 through a pilot experiment in New Zealand. After logging over 12 million flight miles and proving itself after a disaster in flooded areas of Peru, it’s ready to work in Puerto Rico.
However, it needs a telecom partner before it can help restore internet to the millions of people on the island. That’s because the balloons themselves aren’t really providing internet, but act as a relay point for ground-transmitted internet communications. As explained by company spokesperson Libby Leahy to TechCrunch:
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. To deliver signal to people’s devices, Loon needs be integrated with a telco partner’s network — the balloons can’t do it alone. We’ve been making solid progress on this next step and would like to thank everyone who’s been lending a hand.
But it doesn’t seem like Project Loon is waiting for this partner to emerge before launching balloons. As we can see on FlightRadar24, Project Loon is already starting to fill the skies with Project Loon balloons. As of Monday afternoon, there are six in the air in the proximity of Puerto Rico, with those offshore seemingly riding winds toward the island:
For more about Project Loon, here’s the company’s introduction video:
Featured image by Marty Melville / Stringer via Getty Images.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees