Students send relief supplies to Puerto Rico

Arnold Nichols
October 8, 2017

The United States plans to have 17,000 military personnel in Puerto Rico to aid disaster recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria, a Democratic senator briefed on the plan told reporters on Saturday.

The US Federal Communications Commission announced its decision on Friday evening, one of a number of ways in which tech companies are helping rebuild services.

Last Thursday, the Project Loon team at Alphabet's X division noted to Mashable that they were "working hard with the Puerto Rican authorities to see if there's a way for us to use Loon balloons to bring some emergency connectivity to the island during this time of need". When it hit, it was almost a category 5 storm, and pummeled the island with gusts and rains for more than 30 hours.

"More than two weeks after Hurricane Maria struck, millions of Puerto Ricans are still without access to much-needed communications services", FCC chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement.

Earlier this year, Project Loon was deployed to Peru after a series of devastating floods.


Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc, started Project Loon, which was created to give internet connectivity to people in rural places and is now being used for disaster relief. It appears to be a ideal fit for helping Puerto Rico get back online.

A spokeswoman for Claro, a major wireless and land-line network operator on Puerto Rico, said Google approached the company to ask about a cellular frequency that Claro doesn't use.

In a report issued yesterday (PDF), the FCC said 83 percent of cell sites in Puerto Rico are still out of service, along with 57 percent in the US Virgin Islands and 100 percent in St. John.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Project Loon, it's essentially a balloon-delivered wireless service project that's part of X, Alphabet's semi-secret research and development facility.

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