Anti-UTOPIA House Bill 60

To the members of the House Government Operations Committee,

We the undersigned believe that HB60 is a bad bill for business for the following reasons.

1) It restricts UTOPIA as an entity from expanding, regardless of whether its member cities are served or not, or whether other cities would like to join. This is a punitive effort executed by the Utah Legislature that takes control away from city members and management.

2) It hobbles one of UTOPIA’s necessary needs to interconnect member cities through backbone service. These fiber optic links currently under UTOPIA ownership allow service providers who may not have facilities in a UTOPIA member city to provide services throughout UTOPIA, increasing member city choice and competition. How are these interconnections supposed to happen under HB60?

3) It limits UTOPIA from collecting funds from potentially high take-rate areas outside member cities. Funds that could otherwise be used for payback of UTOPIA member city debt.

4) It limits UTOPIA from venturing into unincorporated municipalities, with no governing entity that would otherwise join.

5) It is discriminatory against advanced services. Municipal electrical line services are exempt from these restrictions as long as they have been in operation for over 50 years. Fiber optics have only been in broad deployment since the early 1980’s.

6) UTOPIA is under consideration for a dramatic ubiquitous expansion financed by a private entity. This is the wrong time for the Utah Legislature to throw down potential restrictions that could negatively influence their consideration. If the Utah Legislature wishes cities to be enabled to pay off their UTOPIA bonds, they will welcome all potential offers and take a “hands-off” approach.

Pete Ashdown – XMission
David Burr – Sumo Fiber
Randy Cosby – Infowest
Lane Livingston – Fibernet
Dan McComas – Reddit

I Get Letters

Sent to support@xmission.com:

[********@msn.com – Tue Nov 19 11:57:28 2013]:
Well there wasn’t a direct email link to Pete Ashdown so I guess I
have to go through support to reach him. I am letting you know that
I am going to start another petition in favor of dropping Xmission
internet services because their founder and owner supports
pornography. It’s people like you Pete that have the power in our
country to make a difference, but you choose to be a victim.
Pornography destroys lives no different than drug abuse. But I’m
sure you’re a big advocate for free crack Mondays at school lunch
(as long as the parent didn’t block their child In participating).
How ridiculous does that sound? Well that’s what you’re doing by
your principles in your internet service you provide. Wake up Pete
you provide service in Utah, I’m not so sure your participation in
a KSL news article was the brightest idea if you are going to take
the stand that you are.

(Name deleted)

Sent from my iPhone

My response:

Googling “Pete Ashdown” has my website as the second link: http://peteashdown.org/ –> email is on the right side –> pashdown@xmission.com

Freedom isn’t only about doing whatever you want, it is about your neighbor doing something you hate. I support individual freedom and privacy. Two ideals that that are not mutually exclusive.

My policy is to not monitor or police my customers as to what they do on the Internet. XMission cooperates with law-enforcement agencies when they serve us a proper warrant signed by a court, but otherwise we do not monitor, sell, or give access to the government or the NSA so they can monitor your activities on the Internet. That applies to all activities.

If it was technically possible to stop pornography from crossing the Internet, I would use that ability to stop trojans, viruses, fraud, and malware first. Unfortunately, it is technically impossible. No amount of petitions or angry accusations will change that. If you don’t want the potential for porn coming into your house, I suggest you throw your computer in the dumpster. If not, you may also want to dump your email provider, msn.com as well, since their policy is not to monitor or control what their subscribers email. In fact, I don’t know of any email provider who has such a policy because it is technically impossible to enforce.

Sincerely,

Pete Ashdown

NSA/PRISM Protest Speech

This is the speech I delivered at the NSA/Prism Protest at the Capitol on June 12th:

Last November, I was invited to tour the NSA Bluffdale Data Center. When you have a billion dollars to build anything, it will end up being impressive. What struck me during the tour is what our guide explained as the reasons for Utah being selected as the build site. He said first, our power is inexpensive, amongst the lowest priced in the nation. Second, he said that Utah’s residents were patriotic.

Now patriotism is open to interpretation. To me, patriotism means I love my country and I wish for it to continue. I seek to protect it from harm, coming from the outside or the inside. When the NSA executes broad surveillance on American citizens, they are harming my idea of this country. The idea that the NSA, the CIA, law-enforcement, or any government entity should have unfettered access to our private communications may have not occurred to the framers of the constitution over 200 years ago, but that doesn’t mean we as Americans need to accept it today. In a democracy, we define what our country is and we decide when the government has overreached. Today I stand with you and answer the question of warrantless government surveillance with a “No” and a “Hell no.”

Today we stand in front of our state capitol and express our objection to the NSA. NSA whistle blowers have been coming forward for the past decade warning us about their surveillance powers, and it is refreshing to see national attention on this. Yet the NSA is not the only government entity seeking to invade your privacy. This very body behind us approved a law that enables law enforcement to subpoena customer information from Internet Service Providers without a warrant. I fought that law, and after it was enacted, I received these unconstitutional subpoenas. In every case, I turned them back and asked them for a warrant. In every case, I never received a follow-up warrant. In every case, they did not challenge my refusal. In the past 20 years of running an Internet Service Provider, I have received many requests for subscriber information, but the number of proper warrants I have received can be counted on one hand.

Whether or not Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Apple, and Microsoft allowed the NSA open access to their networks has yet to be determined. However, I’m here to tell you that the NSA data-center will be a pile of useless if companies simply start saying, “No.” The NSA simply cannot intercept Internet communications without access to do so. When companies grant network access to the government without a warrant, they are making a financial decision. They have decided it is cheaper to comply than it is to fight. You need to turn around that financial decision. You need to ask these companies what their policies are, and if they don’t answer or they give you an answer you don’t like, leave them for a company that cares.

How is it that our congressional representation signed off on a billion dollar facility in Utah with very little idea as to what it does? With crumbling infrastructure, underfunded schools, and a scientific establishment that is falling behind the rest of the world, why are we spending billions on a surveillance state without questions? Questions like, “Why do we have a kangaroo court approving secret requests for broad surveillance?” Questions like, “Why is law-enforcement violating the 1st amendment with gag orders on innocent citizens?” Questions like, “Why is there outrage from some elected officials over NSA spying, yet no oversight by elected officials of NSA spying?”

The proponents of NSA monitoring say that this is necessary to keep us safe. In spite of them not being able to catch the imbecile Boston bombers before their heinous act, we are lead to believe that without the NSA activities, the U.S. would be entirely at the mercy of terrorists. To Peter King, John Boehner, Dianne Feinstein, John McCain, and any other elected official who believes this, I have a simple solution. Allow us to install monitoring of you and your family’s communications and make them public. Then we can insure that we don’t have any terrorist moles infiltrating our government. If you believe that NSA monitoring is good for 300 million Americans, then demonstrate it by allowing 300 million Americans to monitor you. If they won’t allow it, then maybe we’re on to something.

Apple Using Motion Sensors for Presence?

In an attempt to blog more nerd posts (thus fitting with my greenscreen theme), I speculate on whether Apple is finally using motion sensors to determine presence. Their iMessage in spite of being a flower in the walled garden, is the only between device messaging system I have. Although having it open or XMPP based would be cool so I could tie it to my Linux desktop, I noticed tonight when I set down my phone and picked up my laptop in a conversation, iMessage switched for the next received message on its own. Something I’ve wished for for a while.

NDAA, SOPA, and Upcoming Volunteer Meeting

Most of the emails regarding policy I have received recently have been in relation to two bills that recently came before congress.

The first, the National Defense Appropriations Act (NDAA) for 2012 is a budgetary appropriations act which has non-germane language in section 1021 regarding indefinite detention. Although the White House assures us that this section “will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens”, I have to ask why is it being considered at all? Why do we let our guiding principals like habeas corpus, enshrined in Article 1, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution only apply within our borders? Regardless of whether the language in section 1021 potentially applies to Americans, and I believe it does, I don’t think we should be suspending habeas corpus in cases of terrorism. Terrorism is not war, it is an international criminal act, and it should be prosecuted and treated by the standards of justice we hold true in the United States. In the case of enemy combatants, declaration and end of war needs to be rigorously defined by congress and prisoners of war should be detained with all concern towards their rights. The quagmire of Guantanamo represents an affront to American justice. Being detained for over a decade without rapid trial inevitably presents problems of human rights and return of the innocent. If we do not practice habeas corpus and rapid trial universally, it is only a matter of time before it is applied to all American citizens through concern of security and outright fear mongering.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) represents another case of congressional ignorance of technology. In spite of opposition from major technology companies such as Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, and Twitter, congress continued to carry water for media companies demanding that they should have the ability to shut down any website without proper trial of criminality. Hearings were stacked with proponents in an attempt to squash opposition. To his credit, Utah’s 3rd Congressional District representative, Jason Chaffetz saw through these tactics and opposed the bill. Unfortunately, it has merely been “suspended” for further wrangling in 2012. SOPA was an attempt to limit the openness and freedom of the Internet and I heartily oppose it.

I will be holding a volunteer coordination meeting Saturday, January 14th, from 1pm – 3pm at 780 East South Temple in Salt Lake City. All are welcome to attend.

Stop Federal Control of the Internet

Once again, Utah’s own Senator Hatch has cosponsored an Internet related bill that further paves the road to Hell. Of all the possibilities that could be exhausted in the lame-duck Senate session (like START ratification), carrying water for media companies is highest on the list. The “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” (COICA) bill passed unanimously out of committee today. One provision of this bill is that the Attorney General can direct Internet Service Providers to block websites that media companies claim are infringing copyright. As I have seen with the equally well-intentioned Digital Millennium Copyright Act, media companies tend to shoot first and ask questions later when it comes to making accusations of copyright violation. DMCA has also been repeatedly used between competitors to hamper each other’s operations, all the while sticking the ISP between them as detective, judge, and jury. COICA is DMCA on steroids and is not good for the Internet. Since Senator Hatch is a sponsor and a repeat offender in regards to technology & copyright law, I suggest you call Senator Bennett’s office and hope that he uses his lame-duck powers for the people rather than the corporations.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is following COICA closely and is a good resource for criticism on it.

Balance the Budget

The New York Times has a nifty web calculator for experimenting with proposed tactics for reducing the federal budget deficit. Although simplistic, it is an interesting exercise that counters the idea that the budget deficit can’t be fixed without privatizing social security or eliminating the Department of Energy and/or Education. I’d like to see a larger interactive budget calculator that allows you to tweak all aspects of federal taxation and expenses. It might reveal some interesting results. Here is what I came up with.

“It’s Just A Name”

Publius, Junius, American Farmer, Common Sense, Silence Dogood, Caesar, Senex, Phocion, Historicus, The Sons of Liberty

If these names had been connected to individuals, the American Revolution may have never happened. If these names had not written letters, handbills, columns and essays under pseudonyms, the public may not have come together against the tyranny of the British crown.

John Adams estimated that his cousin Samuel Adams used between 50 and 100 pseudonyms from the beginning of the American Revolution to its end. Samuel Adams himself said there were too many to count. If the pen is mightier than the sword, anonymity is its shield. Transparency is the key to accountability in government and law-enforcement. If that accountability can only come through the anonymity of a whistle-blowing citizen, then so be it. How many dissidents in Iran wish to have their names connected to their Twitter accounts right now? There is no difference between an anonymous blogger and someone handing out paper 245 years ago. The Fourth Amendment was written for this reason.

If I was a gun maker in revolutionary America, a list of my customers would be valuable information for the British. Would that list be included in my “papers and effects”? What makes the same information recorded by computer on a hard drive any different? The founding fathers demanded warrants be issued with very specific instructions because they had been subjected to the tyranny of inspections and seizures without cause or notice. New technologies do not require the reduction of old protections.

The Attorney General’s office has been twisting arms on the senate floor in a full court press to get HB150 through. The way this bill has been rammed through the House and committee meetings is evidence in itself that something is askew. Representatives of the AG’s office have not only discounted that I am the only Internet Service Provider protesting this bill, they have insinuated that I knowingly harbor child pornographers.

The last line of defense from the AG is that HB150 is actually good for Internet Service Providers. That ISPs can easily refuse an administrative subpoena and fight it in court. I’m not sure how going to court to defend my customers’ Fourth Amendment rights is actually easier than law-enforcement following the letter of the Constitution. I can tell you the latter costs me a lot less time and money.

Enlarging law-enforcement powers by writing a bill with “child predators” at the top is an easy task. What legislator in their right mind is going to stand against that? They aren’t going to be praised for upholding our constitutionally protected liberties, they’re going to be eviscerated for being soft on the lowest form of criminal. This is how these administrative subpoenas snuck out of government as an internal tool between departments and into our daily lives as a bypass of U.S. and Utah Constitutions. The justification is made that this type of information request has been upheld in the courts as constitutional. The Fourth Amendment is a single sentence made up of 54 words. In spite of these judicial opinions, I read warrantless requests for any amount of information as otherwise. With the constant cry that activist judges are shredding our constitution, it is up to our legislature to affirm our rights. They have repeatedly done so on the 2nd and 10th Amendments this session. They cannot turn around and punch a hole right through the 4th just because the Attorney General claims it’s easy.

Thank you to The Eagle Forum, The Sutherland Institute, The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board and The Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers for publicly opposing this bill.

If you do one thing today, call or write the Utah Senate.

Legislature Flier Against HB150

Representative Brian King, the sole committee vote against HB150, asked me to bullet point the problems with HB150 so he could distribute it in the legislature. This is what I wrote for him. Feel free to refer to this when calling and writing your representatives.

VOTE NO ON HB150

1. It is unconstitutional. The 6th Circuit Court has ruled that lack of a proper warrant and probable cause for the disclosure of email from an Internet Service Provider is unconstitutional. To whit from Warshak v. United States, “facially violates the Fourth Amendment by simple virtue of the fact that it authorizes the seizure of personal e-mails from commercial ISPs without a warrant and on less than a showing of probable cause. “ HB150’s disclosure of IP address and email address of customers without warrant could be considered the same as email disclosure, since an email carries this information regardless of content and is the only place that information can usually be retrieved from.

2. It is ripe for abuse. The Fourth Amendment was written to protect the innocent. Its purpose has been repeatedly demonstrated in the face of overreaching government and those who abuse power. HB150 expands the reach of government.

3. There is no accountability. Under HB150 an Internet Service Provider is required to turn over customer information to law enforcement agencies without judicial oversight. The argument that “new technologies” requires “new techniques” is not an excuse to violate the privacy of law-abiding Americans. HB150 does not require a law enforcement agency to keep copies of their individual subpoenas, only the “number” of supoenas are reported to a third party, the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.

4. It is anti-business. Burdensome regulation against Internet Service Providers, making them a wholesale detective arm of law-enforcement is punitive against small ISPs and favors large ISPs with more resources. There are no nationwide ISPs headquartered in Utah and this law will help drive the already struggling small Utah-based ISPs under. Yahoo has already published their price list for violating your personal privacy. Smaller ISPs are more likely to protect your privacy as long as the law stands with them, they don’t have the money to fight a court battle in your favor.

5. The current system works. Internet Service Providers are currently required to respond to proper search warrants, as is any other business or individual. HB150 is a bill in search of a problem, which instead creates a much larger anti-Constitutional violation. Even more concerning, criminal evidence gathered under HB150’s guidelines are subject to “suppression” (exclusion in a court case) due to the lack of proper warrant and may give opportunity for real criminals to walk free.

VOTE NO ON HB150
Thank you! – Pete Ashdown – XMission
pashdown@xmission.com

No Warrant Needed

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution seems to be so narrowly interpreted by some, I have to wonder what they think it is supposed to protect. “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Some believe that because your email may not be actually stored in your house, that it is freely available to any government or law-enforcement agency to inspect. I however, continue to understand that your email, although not something considered a “paper” of the original framers of the U.S. Constitution, is equivalent. I have held this belief in running my business, and have sent many non-warranted requests for customer information packing.

Representative Brad “Ban All Free Wireless Internet” Daw and our Constitution-thumping Attorney General, Mark Shurtleff believe otherwise. They believe that your Internet Service Provider should “turn over the names, addresses, phone numbers, and bank information of customers using an Internet address or cell phone number at a given time” without probable cause or need for a pesky time-consuming warrant. Daw, Shurtleff, and the 10 committee members who sent this atrocity to the house believe that “new crimes” require “new techniques”. However, I still believe that the 4th Amendment overrides their desire to invade your privacy. We’ll see in the coming days exactly how much of the Constitution our Republican dominated legislature really believes in. I suggest you let them know what you think.

Bill text here.