Technology enthusiasts may recall that Google has been experimenting with a concept known as Project Loon. This initiative would effectively bring internet connectivity to rural regions of the world through the use of hot air balloons. It now appears this technology will be used in Puerto Rico as a way to restore cell phone services after the recent hurricane that hit the island. It’s an interesting development, even though it took a natural disaster before regulators saw the merit in this concept.
Project Loon Gets a Real-World use Case
While it sounds pretty ambitious to use balloons for any form of communication service these days, Google is fairly confident it can successfully do so. Project Loon was initially designed several years ago as a way to provide internet connectivity to rural areas where access to the internet is expensive. Ever since that time, not much had been heard about the project, until earlier this week.
Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has received regulatory approval to deploy Project Loon balloons in Puerto Rico. Rather than provide internet service itself, the company will focus on restoring cell phone services in the country. Due to the significant damage caused by Hurricane Maria, cell phone service has been spotty at best in Puerto Rico. This is where Google’s balloons come into the picture.
Google recently filed an application with the US Federal Communications Commission to provide this much-needed service to Puerto Ricans. A decision was rendered relatively quickly, and the outcome was positive. With 83% of all cell phone service in Puerto Rico still out due to the hurricane, a solution is direly needed, to say the least. Tech companies are leading the charge so far when it comes to rolling out temporary services.
What makes the Project Loon balloons so intriguing is how they are completely solar-powered. These high-altitude balloons can provide services to remote regions with relative ease and can remain in operation for quite some time. It is unclear how long these balloons will remain in operation to provide cell phone services in Puerto Rico, although rebuilding the damaged infrastructure will take a fair amount of time, to say the least.
A coordinated and comprehensive approach to supporting the rebuilding of communication service is the number one priority for Puerto Rico right now. Although the Trump administration seemingly had no plan in this regard, Google is coming through for the community in their own way. This will also serve as an experiment to see how well Project Loon operates in the face of adversity. It seems Elon Musk will also provide some sort of a relief effort in Puerto Rico, although specific details are still difficult to come by right now.
All this goes to show that technology companies should be focusing on the issues which matter most. If a country or region is struggling, companies need to help come up with solutions to address these problems first and foremost. To that end, Project Loon could prove to be an invaluable service in the long run.