Tad Deriso, pres­i­dent and CEO of Mid-at­lantic Broad­band Com­mu­ni­ties

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Tad Deriso, Mid-at­lantic Broad­band Com­mu­ni­ties, in ru­ral Vir­ginia

Tad Deriso’s day was not typ­i­cal. The only vice-pres­i­den­tial de­bate in the 2016 cam­paign was be­ing held at Long­wood Univer­sity, Vir­ginia. Mid-at­lantic Broad­band Com­mu­ni­ties (MBC) owns and op­er­ates the open-ac­cess whole­sale net­work that cov­ers the univer­sity and wide ar­eas of ru­ral south Vir­ginia.

“We pro­vided the con­nec­tions to three net­works, Cox, Level 3 and Shen­tel,” says Deriso. “I started the day talk­ing to my op­er­a­tions team to en­sure there was no main­te­nance planned for the day. All those op­er­a­tors were re­ly­ing on MBC: we have all the fi­bre. It was still an anx­ious day, but our net­work per­formed with­out a hitch.”

MBC is an in­de­pen­dent non-profit cor­po­ra­tion, cre­ated with funds from Big Tobacco when Vir­ginia and other states sued the com­pa­nies for health­care costs. Vir­ginia de­cided to put the money into in­fra­struc­ture, and hired Deriso to ad­vise on the best uses. “We used to be a big man­u­fac­tur­ing area, so we had the elec­tric power, but we didn’t have the tele­coms. The idea was to enable the pri­vate sec­tor.”

Now com­pa­nies such as Cen­tu­rylink, Com­cast, Cox and Ver­i­zon use MBC to reach their cell tow­ers and end users. “We have no re­tail cus­tomers, which is re­ally im­por­tant.” MBC’S in­ter­net provider cus­tomers con­nect 151 schools. “In south Vir­ginia we have the net­work that goes back to the long-haul net­works.”

There are some high-tech neigh­bours. Mi­crosoft has a big data cen­tre in the area. Face­book and Mi­crosoft’s MAREA ca­ble will run from Vir­ginia Beach to Spain, and Tele­fónica’s BRUSA ca­ble will run from the same point to Puerto Rico and Brazil.

One a reg­u­lar day, when there isn’t a vice-pres­i­den­tial de­bate on his patch, Deriso spends “the first third on in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties” for MBC. The sec­ond third “is lo­cal eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties – com­pa­nies want to talk about con­nec­tiv­ity as they move to the cloud”. And the last third? “Com­mu­nity in­vest­ments, help­ing poor kids, spon­sor­ing boys’ and girls’ clubs, help­ing with nu­tri­tion ed­u­ca­tion here in ru­ral Vir­ginia.”

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