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Project Loon – Internet and Phone Access without Towers or Cables!

Sometimes disaster brings out the opportunity for technology to take that first step for it to become mainstream. However unfortunate the disaster may be, the technology provides the solution to allow communications to continue that the disaster struck areas can get the assistance that they need. Even though we are at the cusp of breakthroughs and our technology is state of the art, detecting people or their ability to let the world know that they need aid can be limited in a disaster. A perfect example is Peru and recently Puerto Rico.  Both countries have been ravaged by natural disasters which has left the countries with very little ability to communicate with the outside world. Families have been dissipated and homes have been destroyed due to these events. With families that are in other countries that could provide vital aid or governments that need to view the damage, communication and the internet is key.

IT GURUS OF ATLANTA brought to light the steps that different industry leaders such as Facebook, Google, and X (owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet) are taking to bring internet to the rest of the world that don’t have the sophisticated towers of major cities through giant balloons. Many major organizations such as Facebook have tested the possibilities and are still vetting approval for testing to take place in major cities, but are getting pushback due to ISP providers have not collaborated with these companies and the state/federal restrictions, not to mention FAA guidelines for this type of technology to be dispersed. One company out of the masses was granted approval to service another country during their disaster. That country was Peru and their ISP has been allowing testing to be done with X.  The telecommunications carrier called Telefonica (TEF) has been working with X for months prior to their disaster to get ahead of other countries with this technology. Fortunately for Peru, their gamble to allow X to perform their tests gave them the optimal coverage that they needed to communicate with the rest of the world by providing the much-needed internet and voice services during their disaster. The testing which was done and the disaster usage of this technology has catapulted X to new horizons and pushed this technology to the forefront of not only disaster recovery, but also stretching the barriers of communication out to rural areas.  The possibilities of this technology and its uses are endless.

X has dubbed the name of this project as “Project Loon”. Project Loon has become ever increasingly visible with all the hurricane activity which has been hitting the US coastlines and islands with devastating results. One of the major islands for the US which is currently suffering is Puerto Rico. After damaging floods from Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria again hit the island. Since the aftermath of these two disasters, the island is still having power issues, and typical communication methods such as cell phones or the internet are incapable of being used. Power for much of the island is still out and families within the US are devastated by not knowing the fate of loved ones that have been living in Puerto Rico during the storm. Fortunately, the US government has been keeping an eye on Project Loon and noticed its benefit to Peru. Due to the devastation and the success that Peru had with Project Loon, the US government has granted an experimental license for X to provide communications to Puerto Rico.

This approval by the Federal Communications Commission is exactly the type of boost that X has needed to make its mark in the US. It is the opportunity for X to show that Project Loon can support disasters and give the visibility that the world needs to communicate with disaster struck countries. Alphabet, which owns X and Google is has conquered the first hurdle with the approval by the government. However, the approval is only the first barrier that had to be overcome. Unlike Peru, Puerto Rico had not been testing Project Loon before the disasters took place. The problem is Project Loon extends the coverage of a local telecommunications company and distributes those signals through the balloons hovering over the island. Without the testing and collaboration of a pre-designated telecommunications provider, testing and integration must be done with both systems. These tests are vital to ensure that the system works successfully with the designated telecommunications carrier. Even though the system has been proven to work in Peru with Telefonica, these are two different systems, with one that has already been tested and one has not. Despite the hurdles and barriers in front of Project Loon, they have assured that they are making steady progress to successfully launch communications.

Disasters are horrific and never good for people, neighborhoods, cities, or countries.  As unpredictable as natural disasters are, it is the responsibility of the country to ensure that the people enduring this hardship can communicate at the bare minimum. The US is trying to get Puerto Rico back in good standing through the Loon Project which can not only help Puerto Rico, but also connect parts of the country and the world that are in lack of internet and voice. We at IT GURUS OF ATLANTA commend X with their efforts to bring this technology mainstream and look forward to their continued growth to help countries such as Puerto Rico get and stay connected to the rest of the world.


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