Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC), headquartered in Halifax County, was formed in 2004 to help solve the rural telecommunications infrastructure challenge for Southern Virginia. MBC was tasked to design, build, operate and manage a state-of-the-art, carrier-class fiber optic network that enabled retail private sector telecommunications providers to serve the region. This network would help reduce the cost of broadband services by leveling the playing field, expand the reach of broadband in more of our rural communities and create a competitive economic advantage for Southern Virginia.
Today, the MBC middle-mile network stretches over 1,900 miles across multiple counties and cities in Southern Virginia and provides wholesale telecommunications transport, dark fiber and colocation services. The network currently provides connectivity to 475 buildings throughout Southern Virginia, including businesses, business parks, K-12 schools, colleges, government facilities and other anchor institutions in the region.
MBC also built backhaul connectivity for current and planned high-capacity transatlantic subsea cables, bringing state-of-the-art fiber routes from Europe and South America to Virginia Beach, the first and only cable landing located in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. This, in essence, directly connects Southern Virginia and Halifax County to the rest of the world.
Giving back to their community
Mid-Atlantic Broadband has a mission of giving back to the communities they serve and is a strong advocate for the vision of workforce development in STEM-related fields.
Since 2012, MBC has sponsored all of the FIRST Robotics Competition teams in Southern Virginia,
a robotics program for students in grades 9-12. The Halifax County High School Cometbots qualified and competed at the FIRST World Championship in Detroit, Michigan, for the past two seasons. In addition to the annual sponsorship of robotics teams for the regular season, MBC established the MBC Challenge Cup to recognize the FIRST Robotics Competition team that finishes the highest each season.
To help build the pipeline of STEM students in Southern Virginia, MBC decided in 2018 to begin sponsoring all of the FIRST Tech Challenge teams, a robotics program for students in grades 7-12.
Since 2012, MBC has invested nearly $450,000 in Southern Virginia robotics.
“MBC understands the value that FIRST robotics teams bring to Halifax County and Southern Virginia,” said MBC President and CEO Tad Deriso. “Robotics teaches hard skills, such as programming, coding and electronics, and soft skills, such as communication and teamwork. These STEM and soft skills are highly desirable to current and prospective employers in Southern Virginia, and thereby facilitate the fulfillment of STEM careers by students in our region.”
MBC demonstrates its dedication to STEM workforce development by providing scholarships to students who are furthering their education in STEM fields at postsecondary institutions. In 2018, MBC established the Wanda B. Jeffress Memorial STEM Scholarship in memory of Jeffress, a long-time member of MBC’s board of directors. This $5,000 scholarship is available to students graduating from Halifax County High School who are pursuing education in a STEM field. Two students each year have received $2,500 to further their education. Danville Community College, Central Virginia Community College and Southside Community College also each receive $5,000 per year to distribute to STEM students to help offset tuition costs.
Looking to the future
In April 2019, MBC announced a partnership with Microsoft to build the SOVA Innovation Hub in Halifax County. MBC will invest over $5 million to build the SOVA Innovation Hub in downtown South Boston, Virginia, to help meet its growing need for office space. Microsoft, through its TechSpark initiative, will use the space to encourage innovation and spur economic opportunities in the region. The facility will also bring together
local nonprofit organizations from throughout Southern Virginia to offer impactful programming for digital skills education and workforce training.
The SOVA Innovation Hub will be the first new building to be built in downtown South Boston in over 40 years. The new two-story, 15,000-square-foot building will be located on the site of a former tobacco warehouse built in the 1900s and destroyed by a fire in 2002. The building will provide a mixture of offices, co-working spaces, collaborative work areas, event and training spaces and technology showcase areas and will feature high-capacity wireless broadband access.
“Halifax County has been our home for over a decade, and we are thankful for the opportunities we have had here,” Deriso said. “Halifax County and the Town of South Boston were extremely helpful in making the new SOVA Innovation Hub a reality. We are excited that this partnership with Microsoft will spark new ideas and opportunities for Halifax County and our region, and we look forward to continuing our mission of community economic development from our new home in downtown South Boston.”