FCC creates hurricane task force to aid recovery in Puerto Rico

Olive Hawkins
October 8, 2017

"The objective of the [Special Temporary Authority] is to support licensed mobile carriers' restoration of limited communications capability in areas of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria", the license reads.

On Friday night, the FCC announced that it had approved Alphabet, Google's parent company, to provide emergency phone reception to Puerto Rico through the use of balloons. In a filing with the FCC, Google wrote that it wanted approval to use the balloons to "support licensed mobile carriers' restoration of limited communications capability" in Puerto Rico. "In the weeks and months to come, the Commission will be confronting a wide range of storm-related issues that fall within the jurisdiction of numerous bureaus and offices", Pai said in a statement.

The Loon Balloons Google is planning to deploy feature the key elements of a cell tower, but are re-imagined so they can be fastened to a balloon and survive 12 miles into the stratosphere, according to Google.

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The project, however, is not without its challenges. From there, they must work with an on-the-ground telecommunications system. The idea behind this project is to strap hardware that beams internet down to the masses underneath high altitude balloons.

The system has been proven to work.

In late September, Tesla said it was sending hundreds of batteries that can store power generated by solar panels to Puerto Rico to provide emergency help in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The reason for increased difficulty is that Loon was already in testing in Peru with a carrier and was ready to roll. As most of the smartphones are not capable of transcoding Band 8 LTE signals, the OEMs are necessarily required to push an OTA update for every smartphone in Puerto Rico.

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