Project Loon Gets Experimental License in Puerto Rico

Alphabet-led emergency connectivity project relies on cooperation from mobile carriers October 9, 2017

WASHINGTON—The Federal Communications Commission has taken an additional step to provide emergency cellular service in Puerto Rico while the hurricane-ravaged communications infrastructure is repaired.

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The commission has granted an experimental license for Project Loon to operate in Puerto Rico. Project Loon is a network of balloons that provides internet connectivity to users on the ground, led by Google parent company Alphabet.

In Puerto Rico, Project Loon will use land mobile radio spectrum in the 900 MHz band borrowed from mobile carriers currently operating within the U.S. territory. According to the Oct. 8 Disaster Information Reporting System status report, 81.7 percent of the cell sites were still out of service on the island; 57 percent are still out of service in the U.S. Virgins Islands.

“I urge wireless carriers to cooperate with Project Loon to maximize this effort’s chances of success,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in the announcement.

Pai explained, “we need to take innovative approaches to help restore connectivity on the island. 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.”

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