Middle-Mile Connectivity for Rural Areas

Mid-Atlantic Broadband boosts capacity, minimizes cost with Cisco Routed Optical Networking

Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC)

With a 2300-mile fiber network, Mid-Atlantic Broadband (MBC) is a nonprofit, middle-mile broadband provider committed to economic advancement and workforce development in rural Southern Virginia.

Industry: Service provider
Location: South Boston, Virginia
Size: 23 employees
Website: mbc-va.com
Partner: ePlus



  • Deliver high-bandwidth connectivity to rural communities
  • Minimize costs while remaining on the forefront of technological advancement
  • Bring new economic opportunities to Southern Virginia


  • Attained 400 Gigabit Ethernet connectivity at a price point comparable with 100G upgrades
  • Improved cost and power efficiency with coherent optics that eliminate the need for amplification
  • Simplified traffic flows while increasing routing and service flexibility

Uplifting communities

Without high-bandwidth connectivity to enable everything from remote work and entrepreneurship to video streaming, virtual education, and telehealth, many rural communities in the United States have been left behind in the digital age. But that's not the case in Southern Virginia, where Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC) is working to uplift local communities and drive economic advancement.

"As a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, we support and help stimulate job creation, commercial investments, and innovative programs that aid the people of Southern Virginia," says Liz Smith, senior marketing and communications manager at MBC.

It all starts with broadband connectivity, she explains.

MBC provides an essential middle-mile fiber network that connects national carriers and service providers with schools, healthcare organizations, businesses, and citizens in 41 rural communities. Its 2300-mile network supports 200 cell towers, 650 customer locations, and 15,000 near-net locations.

Amidst rising demand for 5G mobile services and with its 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports nearing capacity, the company recently made the decision to upgrade its network backbone and increase the bandwidth delivered to cell towers.

"We initially thought we would go to 100G, which seemed like the next logical step," explains Mark Petty, vice president of network operations at MBC. "But as we evaluated multiple vendor solutions, the advancements Cisco has made with coherent optics were really eye opening and transformed the possibilities."

We initially thought we would go to 100G, which seemed like the next logical step. But as we evaluated multiple vendor solutions, the advancements Cisco has made with coherent optics were really eye opening and transformed the possibilities.

Mark Petty, Vice President of Network Operations

MBC ultimately made the jump to 400G using Cisco Routed Optical Networking.

"400G is a huge leap for us, but it didn't come with a huge price tag," Petty says. "In fact, the cost was in line with what we were expecting for 100G, which is remarkable."

"MBC is providing ultra-high-bandwidth connectivity in areas that have typically been underserved," says Harris Duncan, vice president of network engineering at Shentel, which uses the MBC network backbone to provide high-speed internet, cable television, and home phone services throughout Virginia. "Their upgraded network allows us to deliver the very best services to our customers, no matter where they are."

Slashing TCO

MBC's new network backbone is built with Cisco Network Convergence System (NCS) 540 and 5700 Series routers as well as Cisco 400G Digital Coherent Optics QSFP-DD ZR+ and QSFP-DD High-Power (Bright) ZR+ transceiver modules. The coherent optical transceiver modules, which plug directly into 400G QSFP-DD ports on the Cisco routers, have been key to the high performance and cost efficiency of the network.

"Cisco Bright ZR+ transceivers give us more bang for the buck," Petty explains. "They provide more capacity per port at a lower cost per bit. They deliver 400G connectivity up to 83 kilometers on newer fiber and 40 to 60 kilometers on older fiber. And they eliminate the need for additional amplification."

Not having to purchase and maintain optical amplifiers, transponders, and associated components reduced the total cost of the network. And the high density of Cisco NCS routers has further reduced MBC's operating expenses by lowering space, power, and cooling overhead costs.

"As a nonprofit organization, we need to be price competitive while remaining on the forefront of technological advancement," says Dave Keller, chief revenue officer at MBC. "Cisco Routed Optical Networking solutions are enabling us to strike that balance and reinvest in the communities we serve."

Driving new opportunities

In addition to providing blazing fast performance and minimizing TCO, MBC's new network has simplified traffic flows and increased routing flexibility.

"It's a true mesh network with traffic flowing in multiple directions," Petty explains. "Not only does that increase the resiliency and sustainability of our network, but it also creates opportunities to deliver new services in the future."

In the meantime, MBC leaders are ecstatic to provide ultra-high-performance connectivity in the communities they serve.

"I believe we're the first middle-mile provider of our size to deploy a 400G network," Keller says. "It's a game changer for economic opportunities in Southern Virginia, and we're thrilled to be part of the equation."