Tim Sylvester, CEO of Avanzar Networks, a startup WiMAX Internet service provider in Santa Cruz, Calif., that is seeking broadband stimulus money, worked for hours to create a huge spreadsheet detailing all of the companies vying for the $4 billion that’s up for grabs in the first round. He shared it with me after the National Telecommunications & Information Administration published the list of applications on www.broadbandusa.gov last week. Some rudimentary searches of the unwieldy document reveal some interesting plans when it comes to public safety.

Earlier this month, the NTIA, one of the government agencies in charge of handing out a large chunk of the total $7.2 billion in stimulus money, announced that nearly 2,200 entities applied for nearly $28 billion in money from both the NTIA and the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS). That number is nearly seven times the $4 billion available from the program in the first round.

By my count, 213 applications include some sort of public-safety component, even if they also aim to offer other applications such as consumer broadband. Interestingly, there were few entities asking specifically for funds to build out in the 700 MHz band designated for public safety. Most notable are:

  • The New York State Association of Counties is asking for $186.6 million to deploy a public-safety network in the 700 MHz band for use in 27 participating rural counties throughout the state. In addition, it's asking for another $79.5 billion to deploy a network in the band for public-safety use in nine non-rural counties.
  • Kennebec Communications is asking for $76.1 million in grants and loans to construct a middle-mile, public-safety mobile wireless broadband network project to provide mobile broadband services to public safety, households, businesses, and key community organizations in the state of South Dakota. The network is based on 4G wireless technology leveraging statewide 700 MHz licenses.
  • SkyTerra has applied for $37 million from the NTIA's Sustainable Adoption Program. The company's application calls for the development and deployment of dual-mode wireless devices, optimized for public-safety use, in the 700 MHz band. The devices would be capable of using the terrestrial 700 MHz network and SkyTerra's satellites.

And then there are some interesting sustainable broadband adoption applications. The Public Safety Foundation of America, a charitable organization that provides funding and technical support to PSAPs and local emergency response officials, described its $6.4 million project as having to do with developing a public-safety application store for handsets.

The PSFA also requested another $2.4 million to educate local elected officials, community stakeholders, and public-safety and planning professionals on broadband opportunities and implementation through workshops, town hall meetings, research and the establishment of replicable best practices, focused on unserved and underserved communities.

Wireless and satellite consulting firm Knight Sky Consulting and Associates is proposing the SKYMAX Broadband Public Safety Network and is asking for $4.3 million under the sustainable broadband adoption category to provide "state, city and local public-safety agencies access to a robust 'enterprise' network supporting voice, data, and video on a fully interoperable basis. SKYMAX will provide an innovative, on-demand 'satellite-based' broadband network solution to enable affordable, non-pre-emptible primary and secondary telecommunications."

And finally, Aircell, which is developing air-to-ground broadband services to offer in-flight Wi-Fi, described its last mile application as "enhanced in-flight broadband communications for public safety." It's asking for $65.3 million to improve public safety and consumer access to in-flight Internet service in what it calls the "largely unserved U.S. airspace. ... Expanding Aircell's broadband system will allow in-flight Internet service to be more widely available for national security agencies and accelerate adoption by U.S. airlines and millions of domestic passengers."

This first round of applications will be a good test of what the NTIA and the RUS deem important when it comes to public safety. All in all, there are some pretty creative applications.