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Facebook is sending employees to Puerto Rico to try and help get the territory back online

“Communication is critical during a disaster,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg says.

A man sits in line to fill his gas can in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Joe Raedle / Getty

Puerto Rico has been largely without power for the past week thanks to Hurricane Maria, and many are unhappy with the U.S. government’s response. (Our sister site, Vox, called it “lackluster.”)

Now Facebook is taking matters into its own hands. CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted Wednesday that the company will send the Facebook connectivity team — the group that is building Facebook’s internet-beaming drones — to Puerto Rico to “deliver emergency telecommunications assistance to get the systems up and running.”

The company is also donating $1.5 million to multiple charities, Zuckerberg said, and giving away an undisclosed amount of Facebook ad credits to help promote “critical information to people in the region on how to get assistance and stay safe.”

Facebook has created products over the past few years to help in times of crisis — its Safety Check feature, for example, lets users check in when they’re in a disaster zone to let friends and family know they are safe.

But this effort seems more robust, and involves actual employees traveling to offer assistance. Facebook’s connectivity team is the group that is building drones to help deliver wireless internet to remote and disaster areas. The same team is testing a plane to connect people to the internet in rural places, and also built a tethered drone to deliver Wi-Fi in areas where Wi-Fi towers are down.

It’s unclear if either of those products will be used to help bring connectivity to Puerto Rico. We’ve asked and will update once we hear back. We’ve also asked how many employees are going, and who from Facebook will be leading the charge.

Update: A Facebook spokesperson said the company would send “several” employees to work with a tech-focused nonprofit called NetHope. Facebook did not specify if it planned to use its new drone technology in Puerto Rico.

I've been following the news from Puerto Rico where millions of Americans still don't have food, water, fuel and...

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday, September 27, 2017

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