USA to boost military personnel in Puerto Rico: senator

Passengers await news on the status of a flight from Houston to San Juan in Bush Intercontinental Airport on Thursday

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis testified in Congress on Tuesday that there are "over 10,000 troops" in Puerto Rico.

It could also help prove the business case for Loon, one of the experimental "moonshots" debuted as part of Google, and now housed under Alphabet subsidiary X.

Cell service has mostly been down since Hurricane Maria hit the island. The company deployed balloons to Peru earlier this year after flooding destroyed homes and displaced thousands of people in that country.

On Friday, 83 percent of the island's cell sites were out of service, according to the FCC - down only slightly from 84.6 percent the day before. Helping speed up the process is the Loon team's existing involvement with telecommunications provider Telefonica on the island. "We've been making solid progress on this next step and would like to thank everyone who's been lending a hand".

Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rossello seems open to the idea but there will be a few regulatory and political hurdles to overcome first before Tesla's SolarCity firm can get to work. "I'm glad the FCC was able to grant this experimental license with dispatch and I urge wireless carriers to cooperate with Project Loon to maximize this effort's chances of success".

"This is a temporary fix while we work on laying and splicing miles of fiber, but it will help our customers stay connected with family and friends", he said. The Loon team has reportedly secured spectrum rights from wireless networks operating in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands good for at least six months.

Google parent company 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.

-Jack Nicas contributed to this article.

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