The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Friday gave Google’s parent company the green light to provide emergency cellular service in Puerto Rico using air balloons.
Alphabet will attempt to provide service in Puerto Rico after the FCC approved their experimental license for Project Loon, an initiative that launches giant balloons with network hardware in them to provide internet access to users on the ground.
“We need to take innovative approaches to help restore connectivity on the island,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “Project Loon is one such approach. It could help provide the people of Puerto Rico with access to cellular service to connect with loved ones and access life-saving information. I’m glad the FCC was able to grant this experimental license with dispatch and I urge wireless carriers to cooperate with Project Loon to maximize this effort’s chances of success.”
This move comes just a week after the Project Loon team tweeted that they are looking for ways to bring emergency connectivity to Puerto Rico.
Alphabet launched Project Loon in 2013 in an effort to provide service to people living in rural and remote areas and to bring people back online after disasters. The company deployed balloons to Peru earlier this year after flooding destroyed homes and displaced thousands of people in that country.
More than two weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island nation, many Puerto Ricans still don’t have access to electricity and much-needed communication services. The FCC announced Saturday that nearly 82 percent of cell sites on the island nation are down.