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Northwest Company's Internet Antennas Helping Hurricane Victims Get Online

More than two months after Hurricane Maria, some people in Puerto Rico and Dominica still lack internet connectivity. One Pacific Northwest company is helping hurricane victims in the Caribbean get online.

Redmond, Washington-based Kymeta makes flat-panel antennas to access satellite internet service. Engineers shipped four antennas roughly the size of stop signs to the Caribbean in October. Three are still in use today mounted as mobile Wi-Fi hotspots.

Kymeta CEO Nathan Kundtz said in an audio press release that a Wi-Fi tour caravan is helping hurricane victims reconnect with the outside world, apply for disaster relief, do banking or renew prescriptions.

"One of the benefits of being truly mobile is that we're not restricted to easy to access places,” Kundtz said. “Anywhere that we can get a car or truck, we can bring this connectivity and then the aid that comes with it." ??

The hurricane relief deployment is a chance for Kymeta to demonstrate broadband technology that it hopes one day will see wide commercial adoption on ships, trains, planes and cars.

It took numerous players to pull off the roving Wi-Fi tour of 37 cities all across Puerto Rico. The caravan started in mid-October and is tentatively scheduled to go through mid-December. Intelsat donated the satellite communications link. Puerto Rican telecom provider Liberty Global, which is an investor in Kymeta, publicized and staffed the free Wi-Fi hotspots on the ground along with nurses, pharmacists and volunteer chefs. FEMA aid workers set up under canopies in conjunction with the Wi-Fi tour to process disaster relief applications. ?

According to Kymeta, the caravan has assisted 10,000 people to submit FEMA applications for aid.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.