October 6, 2017 9:12 pm
Updated: October 10, 2017 11:47 am

U.S. approves Google application to provide Puerto Rico with emergency cell service

ABOVE: It's been nearly three weeks since Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico and 85-percent of the island is still without electricity.

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The U.S. Federal Communications Commission said late on Friday it had approved Google-parent-company Alphabet Inc’s application to provide emergency cellular service to Puerto Rico through balloons.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico has struggled to regain communications services. The FCC said on Friday that 83 percent of cell sites remain out of service, while wireless communications company are deploying temporary sites.

WATCH: OUR COVERAGE OF HURRICANE MARIA IN PUERTO RICO

Alphabet, which announced its Project Loon in 2013 to use solar-powered, high-altitude balloons to provide internet service in remote regions, said in an FCC filing it was working to “support licensed mobile carriers’ restoration of limited communications capability” in Puerto Rico.

Earlier on Friday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced he was forming a Hurricane Recovery Task Force with an emphasis on addressing challenges facing Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

WATCH: OUR ONGOING COVERAGE OF GOOGLE


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“It is critical that we adopt a coordinated and comprehensive approach to support the rebuilding of communications infrastructure and restoration of communications services,” Pai said in statement.

Separately, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said in a Twitter posting late on Friday that he had a “great initial conversation with @elonmusk tonight. Teams are now talking; exploring opportunities. Next steps soon to follow.”

READ MORE: Puerto Rico death toll from Hurricane Maria more than doubles to 34

Musk, the chief executive of Tesla Inc, said on Friday the company would send more battery installers to Puerto Rico to help restore power after Hurricane Maria knocked out all power on the island over two weeks ago.

Musk said he was diverting resources from a semi-truck project to fix Model 3 bottlenecks and “increase battery production for Puerto Rico & other affected areas.”

READ MORE: Maria’s devastation shuts down Puerto Rico economy, residents running out of money

In late September, Tesla said it was sending hundreds of batteries that can store power generated by solar panels to Puerto Rico to provide emergency help in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

© 2017 Reuters

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