Project Loon — the balloon delivered internet project that started life as part of Google and now calls Alphabet’s X “innovation lab” home — has moved one step closer to becoming a part of the relief efforts in Puerto Rico. The FCC has issued an “experimental license” for it to provide emergency cellular LTE service. In a statement, an X spokesperson explained that the next step is to integrate with a telco partner’s network, which it’s “making solid progress on.”
On September 29th the X team said it was looking into ways to help Puerto Rico with Project Loon, similar to the way it helped provide service in Peruafter extreme rains and flooding struck the nation in March. However, Loon had already been testing with Telefonica in Peru, which sped up the process.
In a report issued yesterday (PDF), the FCC said 83 percent of cell sites in Puerto Rico are still out of service, along with 57 percent in the US Virgin Islands and 100 percent in St. John. It also took the step of creating its Hurricane Recovery Task Force that will work on restoring services to the islands.