Johns Hopkins engineer helps restore internet access for communities in his native Puerto Rico

December 14, 2017
wireless equipment installation

Naim Merheb and his father move equipment onto the roof of a building for installation. (Image: Naim Merheb)

Naim Merheb, a satellite communication systems engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, recently led a volunteer effort to reconnect several Puerto Rican communities to the internet in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Merheb even helped restore 911 dispatch for ambulances in one rural area.

When the category 5 storm slammed into Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, it devastated the island and cut off communications to most areas. When Merheb, a native of Puerto Rico, heard from family and friends about the storm damage, he knew it would have a continuing impact on residents who would have to rebuild an economy with no infrastructure.

Naim Merheb (center) and collaborators

Last month, Johns Hopkins APL’s Naim Merheb (center) and his collaborators set up free internet in eight Puerto Rican municipalities after Hurricane Maria destroyed much of the island’s infrastructure. (Image: Naim Merheb)

A graduate of Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico and the Johns Hopkins Engineering for Professionals program, Merheb has worked at APL since 1999 and specializes in communication and network systems, particularly those relying on satellites. He contacted several satellite communication companies with a proposal to establish hot spots for wireless internet access in hard-hit and hard-to-reach communities.

“We all saw on television how folks were pulling over along the highways, having driven miles to find a small spot with a cellphone signal. So I wanted to try to take the signal to them instead,” Merheb said. “I was looking at how I could apply my professional knowledge to contribute in some capacity.”

Excerpted from The Hub

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