LAST FRIDAY, ENGINEERS on Google parent Alphabet’s internet-by-balloon Project Loon tweeted that they hoped to bring emergency connectivity to Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Irma and Maria left more than 90 percent of the island without cellphone coverage.
Just seven days later, the Federal Communications Commission Friday gave the company a green light to fly 30 balloons over Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands for up to six months.
If all goes to plan, Alphabet’s balloons will soon help replace the thousands of cellphone towers knocked out of service by hurricane-strength winds. The balloons would provide voice and data service through local carriers to users’ phones.
The details aren’t complete. But in its application to the FCC, Alphabet included letters and emails from eight wireless carriers in Puerto Rico, in which they consented for Loon to use their frequencies.