Google's Loon project is off to a fairly good start. The company is now testing its Wi-Fi beaming balloons in New Zealand, where the things are causing panic to the point where folks are calling the authorities.

Apparently, a member of the New Zealand populace called the police around 11:25 a.m. when they spotted what appeared to be an aircraft crashing in the Pacific Ocean. Before that report, authorities had already learned that a Google Loon balloon had gone down in the area, but just to be sure, they rushed out on the scene with rescue helicopters and lifeboats.

Unsurprisingly, the authorities realized it was only one of Google's free Wi-Fi balloons. They probably laughed and went back to base. However, Google did the most honorable thing by requesting to reimburse local emergency services for wasting their time.

According to one rescue helicopter spokesperson, it was great to learn that Google would foot the bill to cover the expensive costs of a rescue effort that turned out to be nothing but a downed Wi-Fi balloon.

Google began testing its Wi-Fi Loon balloons in New Zealand back in June of last year, a year ago. The company has a team on hand that is dedicated to recovering fallen Loon balloons when they land. This is also coordinated with local traffic authorities.

The Google Loon project is quite interesting as it promises to bring high-speed Internet connections to remote areas around the world. High-speed Internet tends to drive economic growth.

The question is whether Google's plan to place hot air balloons in the sky that deliver free Internet has to do with driving economic growth or more to do with creating new consumers to whom Google can show advertising. What can we say, this is smart business practice.

The search company is not the only tech company looking into providing free Internet from the skies. Facebook is doing the same thing, and it plans to do it with drones instead of hot air balloons.

Whether or not these devices will work for the long term remains to be seen. But if it does happen, it would be quite welcome.

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