‘Councils’ and ‘innovation’ aren’t words often used together. That’s recent broadband projects such as the NYnet network by North Yorkshire county council came as something of a surprise.

Using money from the Yorkshire Forward regional development agency and the EU, NYnet has created 45 points of presence (PoPs) in the region, thus drastically increasing high speed broadband penetration in out-of-the-way locations.

Initially set up to provide public services with a broadband network, it now links approximately 800 sites in addition to providing remote areas with wireless connectivity.

The interesting thing for business is that these PoPs are available for commercial use, providing connections with bandwidths of up to 100Mb through fibre, sDSL or Ethernet over MPLS. The downside is that they cannot connect directly, but must instead pay a middleman – known as a Channel Partner – to receive the service.

Some businesses have already started benefiting. A case study cited on the NYnet site describes a repeater installed in Toftly View in Newton on Rawcliffe. This allows a signal being broadcast from the Village Hall to reach a bed and breakfast at the bottom of the village.

According to the site, ‘The bed and breakfast is now able to offer wireless connection to its residents and they have recently bought a PC to allow residents internet access during their stay without needing to bring a laptop.’

Chief executive of NYnet, David Cullen, is enthusiastic about the scheme’s potential benefits: “This is great news for the region and means businesses can now utilise high speed broadband to support the latest digital services and IT technologies such as VoIP, videoconferencing and fast downloads/uploads.”

Many rural and coastal businesses currently struggle with lower speeds – often less than 2Mbit/s. The primary reason for this is that copper telephone lines tend to be longer in these areas. Broadband speed decreases as line length increases. The low housing density in these areas also makes it less cost effective for providers to build new superfast cable and fibre-based networks.

According to Ofcom, 68% of UK premises have a fixed broadband connection. The Government has allocated £530m for helping local authorities improve broadband connections in remoter parts of the country, though it’s not yet saying which areas are most deserving.

In the meantime, small businesses without a connection might do well to start campaigning for broadband to be brought into their community. Public support will no doubt follow – after all, who wants to be without broadband?