Internet provider to begin work soon in Northampton

Published 4:43 pm Friday, May 5, 2023

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JACKSON – Last year, North Carolina awarded more than $206 million in Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) grants to companies that would provide internet access to rural counties.

Zitel LLC received $2.7 million of those grant funds to serve Northampton County.

Rodney Gray, Zitel’s Chief Operating Officer, spoke before the Northampton County Board of Commissioners during their workshop meeting on May 1 to provide an overview of the company and the work they plan to start soon.

“We focus mainly on rural broadband, and we look forward to expanding in the great state of North Carolina,” Gray stated.

Founded in 2017 by former IT professionals, the company is based in Virginia. They have provided fiber-based internet in parts of Virginia, and were awarded GREAT grants for seven counties in North Carolina, including Northampton.

Zitel’s plan is to lay 86 miles of fiber within the county. The NC Department of Information Technology (NCDIT), which administered the grant, has identified 686 eligible addresses to be served by the project. But Gray noted that their fiber will pass by more than 2,000 addresses, and those residents would also be able to sign-up for Zitel’s broadband service too.

The total projected cost is over $3.8 million. The GREAT grant will cover $2.7 million and Zitel will cover the rest.

According to maps Gray shared during his presentation, the fiber will run from the Henrico area, through Gaston and Jackson, and then points south and east, including Lasker.

The company will offer residential and business plans ranging from 100mps (upload/download) up to 1000mps (upload/download), depending on which plan you choose.

“All these packages have no data caps. They have no limits. You could download the entire contents of the Library of Congress, or watch every video streaming on Netflix every single day,” Gray said.

GREAT grant recipients are also required to participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) which provides low-income households a $30 per month discount on their bill. Gray explained that they will offer a new “residential basic” package to people who qualify for ACP. That plan will provide 50mps (upload/download).

More information about available prices and plans are on their website:

“Currently, our plan is to start building in Northampton County in the next 60 to 90 days,” Gray stated.

Under the contract with NCDIT to provide broadband internet, Zitel has 24 months to complete the work. But Gray estimated that they should be finished in half that time. After the work is complete, he said they would like to continue expanding in the county, especially if more grant opportunities become available.

The commissioners did not have any questions for Gray following the presentation, and Board Chair Charles Tyner thanked him for the information.

Zitel will not be the only company offering broadband internet services to Northampton County citizens.

Roanoke Cooperative has been expanding its Roanoke Connect (recently rebranded as Fybe) broadband service throughout the local area, including Northampton County. You do not have to be a member of Roanoke Cooperative to sign up for service.

Last year, Northampton County also partnered with UScellular to provide Fixed Wireless Access to unserved parts of the county. Unlike other internet providers which use fiber, the UScellular service will utilize a small externally-mounted device which will connect to a nearby cell tower. That device will receive signal and connect to an in-home router to provide wi-fi connection to the home or business.

Like Zitel, Roanoke Connect/Fybe and UScellular are also offering the ACP discount to eligible households.