Speed Reads

it's a bird it's a plane

Alphabet is sending 'internet balloons' to Puerto Rico

Alphabet's ambitious X lab looked skyward to help the recovery process in Puerto Rico, sending "internet balloons" to the battered island territory over the weekend. Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico over a month ago, and Alphabet, Google's parent company, sought to use high-flying technology to help, NBC News reports.

The FCC reported Monday that at least 66 percent of cellular sites in Puerto Rico were still out of service as a result of Hurricane Maria. X's balloons, known as Project Loon, aimed to increase internet access in areas affected by outages. With the approval of several governmental organizations including the FCC and FAA, X deployed the "internet balloons," which carry the technology necessary to provide basic internet access for LTE-enabled phones. The balloons can hover over a specified area using machine learning-powered algorithms, the lab wrote.

The Project Loon team launched the balloons over the Nevada desert over the weekend, and they are now hovering 12.5 miles above ground in Puerto Rico. But X cannot create internet access alone: The company partners with existing cellphone companies to generate LTE access where cell towers and networks have been affected. In Puerto Rico, the team is working with AT&T.

"We plan to continue to offer emergency internet connectivity in areas where it's needed for as long as it is useful and we're able to do so," wrote Alastair Westgarth, the head of Project Loon. "We hope it helps get people the information and communication they need to get through this unimaginably difficult time."