Earlier this month, Mike Cassidy, a project director at Google’s high-risk research division X, woke before dawn in the Northwest Brazilian state of Piau . It was already warm and humid. He drove for an hour to a clearing in a rural area and helped his team launch several high-altitude balloons with a payload of Internet connectivity technology-the nub of the project he directs called Loon. Then he jumped into another car to race against the balloons’ flight path, speeding along an unpaved road, dodging chickens and pigs, and finally arriving at Agua Fria, a tiny community on the outskirts of the town Campo Maior. Cassidy pulled up to a rural schoolhouse that had never been able to receive high-quality Internet signals. (Locals sometimes climb trees to try to get a signal for their mobile phones.)
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