Last Thursday, the Project Loon team at Alphabet's X division noted to Mashable that they were "working hard with the Puerto Rican authorities to see if there's a way for us to use Loon balloons to bring some emergency connectivity to the island during this time of need".
"More than two weeks after Hurricane Maria struck, millions of Puerto Ricans are still without access to much-needed communications services", FCC chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement.
Loon is one of Google's original "moonshot efforts created to bring connectivity to remote areas of the world and locales struggling in the aftermath of natural disaster".
Pai said Project Loon "could help provide the people of Puerto Rico with access to cellular service to connect with loved ones and access life-saving information".
As Harris spotted, earlier today the FCC granted a "Special Temporary Authorization" to "support licensed mobile carriers' restoration of limited communications capability in areas of Puerto Rico". In a report issued yesterday, the FCC revealed that 83 percent of cell towers on the island are still down, with the US Virgin Islands in a similar state.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico has struggled to regain communications services. Each balloon would hover about 12 miles off the ground and provide voice and data coverage for roughly 2,000 square miles (5,000 square kilometers).
Google said its wind-predicting algorithms helped to help keep its balloons aloft in Peru's airspace for 98 days during a test a year ago, ensuring they were not carried away by air currents.
Leahy added Project Loon will need to partner with a telecommunications provider's network in order to get cell service up and running. "We've been making solid progress on this next step and would like to thank everyone who's been lending a hand".
Project Loon can launch a new balloon every 30 minutes, with one previously surviving 190 days aloft in the stratosphere.
The project works by ground stations connecting to the local internet infrastructure and beaming signals to the balloons.
"22 (same as yesterday ) out of the 78 counties in Puerto Rico have 100 percent of their cell sites out of service". In first-world nations with advanced infrastructure, the cost of connecting an area-even if you have to do a last mile fiber pull-is far lower than the physical cost of all of the infrastructure the fiber line or copper wire is attached to.