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. That's 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 are called HBAL199 and HBAL237. They are more than 60,000 feet above land, according to FlightRadar24.com. 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 also solar-powered. They 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. She is 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. This is according to a government website.

AT&T spokesman Jeffrey Kobs said the company has set up 14 temporary cell sites, and 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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COMMENTS (78)
  • David M-del
    11/01/2017 - 06:50 p.m.

    I love this article because it talks about how these ballons carry Wi-Fi on them. All of these ballons go to Puerto Rico Because Puerto Rico dosent have any Wi-Fi since the hurricane hit them.

  • NatalieH-del
    11/01/2017 - 06:51 p.m.

    Google now has Internet balloons in Puerto Rico! They're solar powered, can fly to 60,000 feet above ground, and move around using an algorithm. Google is doing this to send things to Puerto Ricans in need. As you know, terrible weather has struck Puerto Rico, leaving it in a terrible condition. Other companies, such as Facebook, Cisco, and Tesla are contributing help as well.

  • EoinM-del
    11/01/2017 - 07:13 p.m.

    I think this is the greatest thing that could happen to Puerto Rico right now. They are going through a hard time and Google just sent a savior for them. This is cool

  • WilliamF-del
    11/01/2017 - 07:52 p.m.

    Yay!!!
    Internet for Puerto Rico is definitely a good thing. After Hurricane Maria destroyed most of the cell tower this is a big improvement. I hope we can restore all the damage............

  • JasminderK-del
    11/01/2017 - 07:54 p.m.

    It is great that these big companies are trying to help with the horrible situation in PR , I think this is a very good idea.

  • EmilyN-del1
    11/01/2017 - 08:05 p.m.

    It is nice that the government is giving Puerto Rico internet. The people there are in desperate need of electricity and internet. I really like to hear that people are still very kind with all the bad things that happen in the world.

  • JuliaA -del
    11/01/2017 - 08:39 p.m.

    The main idea of this article is how there are internet balloons from Google. This helps Puerto Rico stay in touch even with the hurricanes so they know what is happening in the world.

  • GregoryM-del
    11/01/2017 - 08:49 p.m.

    The internet is almost as important as the electricity because you need internet to contact people. Without internet you would not be able to reach family or emergency services. Although internet is important it is not as important as electricity.

  • KyleP-del1
    11/01/2017 - 08:50 p.m.

    This article is about how google is transferring WiFi to Puerto Rico so that they can communicate because there cell towers were put down by Hurricane Maria

  • SaraM-del
    11/01/2017 - 09:01 p.m.

    Due to Hurricane Maria, there has been no power. Google's parent company. Alphabet Inc., are sending balloons with wifi and power to countries that have been affected by the Hurricane.

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