Alphabet X Solar-Powered Balloons Bringing Internet Service to Puerto Rico

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December 4, 2017 | Originally published by Date Line: December 4 on

The Federal Communications Commission  (FCC) granted Google”s parent Alphabet X an experimental license to help get Puerto Rico back online after Hurricane Maria decimated the island”s infrastructure.

There are now several of their giant stratospheric “Project Loon” balloons over the island, and they have worked with AT&T and T-Mobile to get communication and internet activities like sending text messages and accessing information online for some people with LTE enabled phones to support texting, email and basic web access.

The balloons fly at altitudes of greater than 60,000 feet. They are solar-powered and navigate using machine-learning algorithms that direct them to rise and fall to take advantage of wind currents to put them in the best positions to provide coverage.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Alphabet has been authorized by the FCC to send up to 30 balloons to serve the hard-hit island.