Google turns on internet balloons in Puerto Rico This Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017 photo provided by Project Loon shows a stratospheric balloon heading for Puerto Pico after its launch from the project site in Winnemucca, Nev. (Project Loon via AP)
Google turns on internet balloons in Puerto Rico
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Google's parent Alphabet Inc. said that its stratospheric balloons are now delivering the internet to remote areas of Puerto Rico, where cellphone towers were knocked out by Hurricane Maria.

Two of the search giant's "Project Loon" balloons are already over the country. They are enabling texts, emails and basic web access to AT&T customers with handsets that use its 4G LTE network.

The balloons, soaring more than 60,000 feet above land according to FlightRadar24.com, are called HBAL199 and HBAL237. They navigate using an algorithm that puts them in the best position to deliver signal by rising and falling to ride wind currents. They are solar-powered and only provide signal during the day.

Several more balloons are on their way from Nevada. Alphabet has been authorized by the Federal Communications Commission to send up to 30 balloons to serve the hard-hit area, according to Libby Leahy spokeswoman for Alphabet's X, Alphabet's division for futuristic technologies.

Project Loon head Alastair Westgarth said in a blog post that Project Loon is "still an experimental technology and we're not quite sure how well it will work," though it has been tested since last year in Peru following flooding there.

Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory of 3.4 million people since making landfall last month. Gov. Ricardo Rossello said the death toll had risen to 49. Less than a fifth of the island has electricity, half its cellphone towers are still not functioning, schools are closed and more than 4,000 are in shelters, according to a government website.

AT&T spokesman Jeffrey Kobs said the company has set up 14 temporary cell sites, and as of Friday more than 60 percent of the population was connected via mobile network, in part due to the help of humanitarian and government groups and Project Loon.

Other technology companies such as Cisco, Facebook and Tesla have also pledged help or have sent teams to the island to improve communications and restore power.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is the internet almost as important as electricity?
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COMMENTS (8)
  • victoriai-hol
    11/03/2017 - 10:02 a.m.

    Because the internet allows you to send texts emails, and other means of communication, so you can get help if you need it.

  • KatrinaMeehan-ban
    11/06/2017 - 07:37 a.m.

    The internet is as important as electricity because you need it to contact loved ones and tell them your okay.

  • ShaneMolander-ban
    11/06/2017 - 07:41 a.m.

    I like how at at&t was able to help out puerto rico.

  • StellaSchofield-ban
    11/06/2017 - 07:43 a.m.

    Internet is almost as important because many people use it.

  • JulieAlcaro-ban
    11/06/2017 - 07:45 a.m.

    So you can communicate quicker with emails or texts

  • SamMcGregor-ban
    11/06/2017 - 07:46 a.m.

    I like how the United States is trying to help out Puerto Rico. the balloons are allowing for Puerto Rico to be connected to the rest of the world by giving them internet.

  • GracePfaff-ban
    11/06/2017 - 07:49 a.m.

    The internet is almost as important as electricity because it allows everyone to communicate.

  • PaigeHolloway-ban
    11/06/2017 - 07:49 a.m.

    The internet is almost as important as electricity because it allows you to communicate with others.

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