Project Loon Launches Internet Balloons Over Puerto Rico

A Loon balloon on its way to Puerto Rico from Nevada

A Loon balloon on its way to Puerto Rico from Nevada

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. Over half of the island's inhabitants don't have access to electricity, which makes communicating with friends, family, and the wider world almost impossible.

Alphabet's Project Loon, which last month partnered with AT&T and T-Mobile to bring LTE connectivity to disaster-stricken Puerto Rico, says its helium air balloons have delivered internet to 100,000 residents on the island.

A project lead on Loon, Alastair Westgarth said, "We hope that the connectivity Project Loon has provided over the last few weeks has been helpful, and would like to thank AT&T, T-Mobile, and our government partners who made these efforts possible". 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.

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Project Loon was also deployed in Peru earlier this year to provide the same connectivity to people affected by the major floods in the country.

This is a new venture for the Project Loon team, since this is the first time they have utilized machine learning powered algorithms to keep the balloons clustered over Puerto Rico. But with more balloons combined with dedicated infrastructure fix, it might be possible to get the island back online relatively soon.

Providing an internet connection to more than 100,000 people is not a major success, especially considering that the population of Puerto Rico is at 3.4 million.

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