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FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 file photo, power lines are down after the impact of Hurricane Maria, which hit the eastern region of the island in Humacao, Puerto Rico. In the wake of Hurricane Maria, Facebook pledged to send a "connectivity team" to help restore communications in ravaged Puerto Rico. It's just one of several tech companies - among them Tesla, Google, Cisco, Microsoft and a range of startups - with their own disaster response proposals, most aimed at getting phone and internet service up and running. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti, File)

The FCC approved an experimental license for Project Loon to help reconnect Puerto Rico


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted an experimental license on Saturday for Project Loon to operate in Puerto Rico, in hopes of reestablishing cell service on the island.

Project Loon, which is operated by Google's parent company Alphabet, has proposed launching balloons over the island to bring emergency cell service and Wi-Fi to hard-to-reach areas.

Here's how it works:

Project Loon

“More than two weeks after Hurricane Maria struck, millions of Puerto Ricans are still without access to much-needed communications services,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. "That’s why we need to take innovative approaches to help restore connectivity on the island. Project Loon is one such approach."

Although Project Loon now has a license to operate in Puerto Rico, that doesn't mean it will be able to launch the balloons any time soon.

"We're grateful for the support of the FCC and the Puerto Rican authorities as we work hard to see if it's possible to use Loon balloons to bring emergency connectivity to the island during this time of need," said Libby Leahy, a spokesman for Alphabet's X division.

But launching one of their balloons isn't enough Leahy told the Associated Press.

"To deliver signal to people's devices, Loon needs be integrated with a telco partner's network — the balloons can't do it alone," she said.

Other tech companies have offered support to the U.S. territory as well.

On Friday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk suggested sending the company's solar-powered batteries to help restore power on the island.

To that, Gov. Ricardo Rossello tweeted, "Let's talk."

Musk later tweeted saying he had pushed back the unveiling of Tesla's new semi-truck to "increase battery production for Puerto Rico & other affected areas."

In addition to those efforts, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pledged to send a "connectivity team" to help.

For more, check out these stories:
Solar panels could be used to solve Puerto Rico's energy shortage
After 2 weeks without power in Puerto Rico, eating candy for dinner is the new norm
A Brooklyn community group's office is overflowing with donations to send to Puerto Rico

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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