More than 90 percent of people on the island of Puerto Rico don’t have power, and more than 80 percent don’t have access to wireless cell service, according to the most recent advisories from FEMA and the Federal Communications Commission. Only 55 percent of residents have access to drinking water, getting out information about where to go to find resources can save lives.
On Friday, the FCC gave Alphabet, Google’s parent company, permission to launch its internet balloon project over Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Project Loon transmit internet service from high altitude balloon. Loon has permission to fly 30 of its balloons for up to six months over the affected areas.
Eight local carriers agreed to let Loon use their frequencies to revive connectivity during the recovery effort. The idea, as Harris wrote in Wired, is for Alphabet to set up base stations that will connect to the wireless networks that are still standing. Those will link to balloons flying nearly 13 miles above the Earth, from which cell service will be broadcast down to the islands.
According to Loon, each one of its balloons can provide service for about 3,000 square miles, so the fleet should be able to provide coverage for the entire island. It’s not clear that Loon’s connectivity will be compatible with all devices, though, and the company may have to provide an over-the-air software update to Apple and Samsung phones to make sure that they are compatible with the network.
— The Team at X (@Theteamatx) September 29, 2017
Puerto Rico’s electrical grid was severely damaged by Hurricane Maria, a category 4 storm that made landfall in the territory in late September.
“The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too,” Musk said.
“Such a decision would be in the hands of the PR govt, PUC any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of the PR.”
The other islands referred to by Musk include Kauai in Hawaii, where Tesla built a solar energy grid. However its population is only around 70,000 people, whereas Puerto Rico’s is 3.4 million.
Elon Musk thinks he found the solution to Puerto Rico's massive blackout pic.twitter.com/xNj6eesD1o
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) October 7, 2017
Rosselló responded to Musk’s message within hours, tweeting: “@elonMusk Let’s talk. Do you want to show the world the power and scalability of your # TeslaTechnologies? PR could be that flagship project.”
Musk responded via Twitter on Friday that he would be “happy to talk,” adding: “Tesla can be helpful.”
— Ricardo Rossello (@ricardorossello) October 6, 2017