Iosco County Clerk/Co-Administator Nancy Hubel, left, and Juli Montgomery, the county’s data collections director, discuss the need for expanded Internet services through Merit Internet Services during the May 6 Internet county meeting.

TAWAS CITY — New expanded services from Iosco County’s Internet provider, Merit Internet Service, means the county will be better equipped to endure cyber attacks, but not all commissioners were on board with the change.

The Iosco County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1, to purchase expanded services with Merit during the May 6 meeting.  Commissioner Terry Dutcher cast the dissenting vote in the measure, citing the cost of the new service.

Under  new contract with Merit, which exclusively provides broadband Internet services to municipalities, government agencies and schools, the county will pay the company $6,486 annually for the services. Those services include new bandwidth, up to 40 megabytes per second, network assess, distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) protection service from Merit. The new services are an increase of $2,700.

During discussion when the topic came up of the cost, Dutcher was not very keen on paying the price for the service. He said with the county trying to implement cost saving measures because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the shortfall of revenues coming into the county, he didn’t think it was a very good value.

He said the county’s data processing coordinator Juli Montgomery, who was brought into the meeting to explain what the county would be getting for their money, should find a different Internet service provider for the county.

Montgomery said that Merit was the way to go for the county, and said that other service providers could not provide what Merit provided and were not as secure as that service.

“You don’t want to get off Merit,” she said. “Other services are not as secure. Merit only services governments, hospitals, and schools and the public is not on their service.”

Montgomery said there were any reasons to increase the bandwidth of the county Internet with Merit, besides the fact that the service was more secure. She said one reason is as the county works to implement Geographic Information Systems, which is computer mapping of the county, through the Internet for the county’s stakeholders — townships and city governments — it is going to require a lot of bandwidth through the Internet to get that service working.

Another is the county is constantly dealing with are DDoS attacks, Montgomery said. She said the county is getting an average of 27,000 emails a day, and hackers are constantly trying to hack into the county systems. She said Merit’s service stops that.

“But I can get you quotes for ATT, or Charter, but it’s not my recommendation,” she said.

Dutcher said he would like quotes from the other services, but asked by Montgomery would not want to go with those other services.

Montgomery said it was a matter of security. She said that Merit was far more secure than the other services, which had other users, including the public, using it. 

Dutcher said before he voted for the price increase he would like to look further and deeper. He said he did not see a reason to not use Charter. He said that Iosco County Central Dispatch was using charter with no issues.

Other commissioners were not keen on waiting for the resolution and other quotes. Vice Chairman Jay O’Farrell said that the board had a resolution in front of it, and they should vote to have the services implemented.

Chairman Robert Huebel agreed with O’Farrell.

“I am not an IT person,” he said. “I take the advice of the IT person and I take it that she’s doing the best to keep things safe and secure. Personally I would move in that direction.”

Commissioner John Moehring agreed that the county should go with Merit for their Internet services.

“No disrespect to Commissioner Dutcher,” he said. “But time is of the essence. I would recommend adopting this resolution and then next year revisit it again if there is a reason that we should perhaps move to a different provider, b ut as Montgomery explained it seems to me we need secure access to our IT and we can’t find a different provider as Julie said, but they don’t provide the security and in this day and age it’s security that drives the cost. “

Dutcher told Moehring that he did not feel that it was disrespect. He said that it was a matter of cost and that the county could prolong the decision until the June meeting, when the decision had to be made.

“My opinion is we could prolong this for one more meeting and we could save the money and get the protection we deserve,” he said. “If there is not another provider out there for this type I’ll just stop right now and we’ll continue on with the resolution that we have.

Dutcher said, however, that he thought that if the county was going to look at saving taxpayer money in other areas, why not do it in Internet as well.

“If there is an opportunity to save money, we should look for that,” he said.

After discussion the question was called and a vote on the resolution was conducted. Dutcher cast the only dissenting vote in the 4-1 measure.