In September 2017 Hurricane Maria caused havoc in the Caribbean and Puerto Rico was one of the most affected islands. The US territory was practically incommunicado, and Google helped by sending balloons from its Project Loon to provide internet service. Today, more than 200,000 people are connected.
This was stated by Sal Candido, director and engineer at Alphabet X, responsible for these balloons, during a conference with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) that took place in the city of Austin, in the state of Texas .
As reported from Ars Technica, Candido said that since the island went dark about five months ago, more than 200,000 people have access to the Internet using their company’s balloons. The project consisted of Alphabet X putting the antennas (balloons) while AT & T and T-Mobile put the data connection through LTE networks. Candido assured that Project Loon was designed for places where the Internet connection is non-existent, but they took advantage of the tragedy of Puerto Rico to test the project in emergency situations. The result was a success.
“Normally we think of Loon as a project for cities and territories without Internet access, but in the future the case of Puerto Rico will serve us for this kind of situation we had never imagined, and all the preventive measures we could take in a contingency” .
Puerto Rico was devastated after Maria’s crossing, destroying a large part of its electrical structure and leaving its more than 3 million inhabitants without electricity or way of communicating.