Peter Lynn "Pete" Ashdown (born January 11, 1967) is the founder and CEO of Utah's first independent and oldest Internet service provider, XMission. Running as the Democratic candidate in 2006, Ashdown lost to incumbent U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch. Ashdown ran again in 2012 for the U.S. Senate, but was defeated in his pursuit of the Democratic nomination at the state convention by Scott Howell.
Early life, education
Ashdown was born in Salt Lake City to Robert and Greta Ashdown, and grew up in Bountiful, Utah. His father worked as a machinist, an elementary school teacher, and a professor of manufacturing design at Salt Lake Community College. His mother, an immigrant from Denmark, ran the Ashdowns' family business of importing kitchenware from Finland. In his teen and young adult years, Ashdown held jobs of bussing tables at a Japanese restaurant, working for an electrical contractor, computer sales and repair, and data entry.
Ashdown graduated from Woods Cross High School in 1985 and attended Salt Lake Community College, subsequently transferring to the University of Utah to study filmmaking. While at the university, Ashdown began studying computer science.
In 1998, Pete married his wife. They have three children, two daughters and one son.
While at the University of Utah, Ashdown was hired by local computer graphics firm Evans & Sutherland as a computer operator and administrative assistant. After Ashdown's mother Greta died in 1990, his father urged him to start his own business. In 1993, at the age of 26, Ashdown formed the internet service provider (ISP) XMission with an investment from his father, and in 1994 left Evans & Sutherland.
XMission was the first internet service provider in Utah. According to the Salt Lake Tribune Ashdown describes deciding to start an internet service provider when he found getting internet at home "wasn't an option".
The press routinely quotes Ashdown on issues related to internet security, internet privacy, internet regulation. Ashdown is a proponent of net neutrality and stronger regulation of internet related businesses.
In June, 2013, Ashdown published an article in Transmission, XMission's inhouse magazine for customers, entitled The NSA and XMission. In that paper he described a tour of a massive new storage facility the NSA had built to archive internet traffic. Ashdown described officials lack of transparency when he asked questions he thought the public was entitled to clear open answers. He commented on the CEOs of major internet companies, like Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page, who he felt had given equivocal answers to questions as to whether their companies had compromised their customer's privacy under unofficial pressure from security officials. He assured customers that XMission would firmly resist this kind of pressure. He said that XMission had only received one properly constructed FISA request, in 2010, which they had complied with, but they had rebuffed multiple unofficial requests for customer information.
In 2013 Michael Froomkin, a law professor at the University of Miami School of Law, quoted Ashdown's article in an academic paper of his own, on "privacy enhancing technology". He noted Ashdown said that, because the internet was not designed with security in mind, those who desired privacy would have to rely on encryption.
Russia Today profiled Ashdown in July 2013. It praised his willingness to go to jail resisting ill-formed subpoenas. It noted that he was a supporter of Edward Snowden, who he saw as also being willing to resist authorities who were overstepping their constitutional authority.
In August 2013 the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the Wall Street Journal had reported that officials had told them that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency's had secured the cooperation of internet backbone QWest to monitor all email and text messages in the Salt Lake area, during the 2002 Winter Olympics, and in the months preceding it. The Tribune described Ashdown as an "Utah Internet Pioneer", when it quoted his warning to readers about the dangers warrantless wiretapping poses to ordinary citizen's privacy and personal freedom.
In November 2014 Utah State Representative Marc Roberts's bill to cut off water to the NSA's controversial massive data center in Bluffdale, Utah. The Salt Lake Tribune quoted Ashdown's support for Roberts's bill, paraphrasing comments he made about why the NSA located the data center in Utah. According to the Tribune, when an NSA administrator told him one of the reasons they chose Utah was that Utahns were patriotic, and "Ashdown believes the latter implied Utahns would not question what the NSA does."
In 2016 Utah State Senator Todd Weiler passed a bill declaring pornography a public health crisis. The Salt Lake Tribune quoted Ashdown's comments on the technical impossibility of completely filtering out internet pornography. He pointed out that China, a totalitarian state, where the State exercised draconian control over its citizen's privacy, was not able to fully restrict their access to the internet.
In September 2018 KUTV-TV asked Ashdown to comment on the case of Julie Nelson, a Utah woman suing Verizon. After Nelson stored all her pictures on Verizon's cloud service, Verizon promptly lost them. Ashdown reminded readers "It's not a backup if it's your only copy." He described keeping a thumb drive with a backup copy of his photos in his safety deposit box, which would keep the images safe even if his house burned down.
In February 2019 the Salt Lake Tribune quoted Ashdown on the roll-out of the Google Fiber service, a giga-bit internet service that competes with XMission's giga-bit service. Ashdown noted delays and cancellations in Google Fiber's rollout, and urged caution on the part of customers.
2006 U.S. Senate election
Ashdown was the only Democrat who filed to run against incumbent Republican Senator Orrin Hatch in the 2006 Utah Senate election. Ashdown stated that he was "disgusted" by Hatch's policies regarding technology, notably the INDUCE Act. He supports the goals of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and has stated the support for reforming copyright laws in support of initiatives taken by the EFF.
In July 2005, Ashdown was endorsed by the blog Boing Boing for the election. Ashdown is believed to be one of the first politicians to use a wiki to develop a campaign platform, although he has had to restrict editing due to excessive vandalism.
Ashdown lost, and Hatch was re-elected with 62% of the vote, but Ashdown's showing of 31% was claimed to be strong against an entrenched incumbent, and the low amount of money spent by the Ashdown campaign (around $250,000).
2012 U.S. Senate election
Ashdown formally announced on November 11, 2011, that he would again seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Orrin Hatch in the 2012 Utah U.S. Senate election. He was ultimately defeated at the Utah Democratic convention on April 21, 2012, by Scott Howell, who won the nomination in the first round of balloting.
- Lee Davidson (2017-09-12). "Census: Utah ranks No. 3 for households with high-speed internet". The Salt Lake Tribune. Archived from the original on 2018-07-21. https://web.archive.org/web/20180721105510/https://www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2017/09/12/census-utah-ranks-no-3-for-households-with-high-speed-internetbr/. Retrieved 2019-03-02. "Back in 1993, Pete Ashdown wanted to access the internet at his Utah home but discovered 'I didn’t have that option.' So he started the Xmission internet service provider company — figuring a few other 'nerds' may want the same thing."
- Art Raymond (2018-07-12). "Lawmaker looks to keep Utah net neutral". Deseret News. Archived from the original on 2018-09-22. https://web.archive.org/web/20180922080726/https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900024664/lawmaker-looks-to-keep-utah-net-neutral.html. Retrieved 2019-03-02. "While supporting the effort, Ashdown said he expects some legislators will simply see King's effort as "government overreach" without recognizing the heart of the issue. 'I think there's a role, a necessary role, for regulation in industries that lack competition,' Ashdown said. 'Internet service provision in many areas functions like a monopoly. … Most customers have no choice of providers.'"
- Rita Whitman Steingold, Leo Melamed, Elizabeth Wilcox, Gernot Roemer, Christine Faye Kohler, Annie Laura Smith, Armin Mruck, Pete Ashdown, Alma Thieme (2011). "Fast Forward the Future". Exclamation! Publishers. ISBN 9780982298473. https://books.google.ca/books?id=xI9Tf36DY2kC&dq=%22Pete+Ashdown%22+-wikipedia&source=gbs_navlinks_s. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
- Cyrus Farivar (2013-05-13). "The only Utah ISP (and one of the few nationwide) standing up for user privacy". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on 2018-12-23. https://web.archive.org/web/20181223190536/https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/07/the-only-utah-isp-and-one-of-the-few-nationwide-standing-up-for-user-privacy/. Retrieved 2019-03-02. "Not all legal requests are as malformed as this one. The local entrepreneur's company, XMission, is one of the few ISPs and hosts in the United States that seems to make a point of standing up for the user privacy of its 30,000 customers (California's Sonic.net is often noted as one of the others). When Ashdown gets requests to preserve or hand over data, he checks to see that the requests are accurately written. If so, he tells law enforcement to come back with a probable cause-driven warrant—at which point they never do. In the age of new disclosures about what government agencies are finding out about all of us, such a defiant stance is worth noting."
- Pete Ashdown (2013-06-10). "The NSA and XMission". Transmission. https://transmission.xmission.com/2013/06/10/the-nsa-and-xmission. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
- A. Michael Froomkin (2013). "PETs Must Be on a Leash": How U.S. Law (and Industry Practice) Often Undermines and Even Forbids Valuable Privacy Enhancing Technology. University of Miami School of Law. p. 979. https://repository.law.miami.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1063&context=fac_articles. Retrieved 2019-03-02. "'[t]he Internet was built on trust, and nobody anticipated interception of data would be a problem. The only way to fix this is through encryption.'".
- "Pete Ashdown: ISP owner who stood up to NSA says govt should follow law if it wants to keep secrets". Russia Today. 2013-07-12. https://www.rt.com/usa/ashdown-xmission-surveillance-technology-981/. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
- "Small Utah ISP firm stands up to ‘surveillance state’ as corporations cower". Russia Today. 2013-07-11. https://www.rt.com/usa/utah-isp-surveillance-state-corporations-925/. Retrieved 2019-03-02. "Ashdown has pledged his willingness to go to jail to protect his customers’ privacy - a cause which he says is all too rare in the current profit-first climate exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden."
- Thomas Burr (2013-08-22). "Report: NSA, FBI monitored all emails, texts during Salt Lake Olympics". Salt Lake Tribune. https://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=56765351&itype=CMSID. Retrieved 2019-03-02. "Xmission was not asked at the time to install monitoring technology, Ashdown said. But emails of Xmission's customers could well have been accessed in the Olympics-related surveillance program, given that smaller Internet companies often routed Internet traffic over portions of Qwest's network to deliver their services."
- Nate Carlisle (2014-11-20). "Shutting off NSA's water gains support in Utah Legislature". The Salt Lake Tribune. https://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=1845843&itype=cmsid. Retrieved 2019-02-27. "Pete Ashdown, the founder of the Internet service provider XMission, toured the Utah Data Center before the leaks from Edward Snowden. He said an NSA administrator told him the data center came to Utah because of low energy prices and people who were patriotic."
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- Matt Gephardt, Michelle Poe (2018-09-12). "Woman asks Verizon for free service after cloud photo goof costs her lifetime of photos". KUTV-TV (Bountiful, Utah). https://kutv.com/news/get-gephardt/woman-asks-verizon-for-free-service-after-cloud-photo-goof-costs-her-lifetime-of-photos. Retrieved 2019-03-02. "Pete Ashdown with XMission said Nelson is not the first to put too much faith in cloud storage — and she likely won’t be the last. 'It's not a backup if it's your only copy,' he said. 'It's the same as losing something on a hard drive. If it's your only copy, it's gone.'"
- Tony Semerad (2019-02-18). "Google Fiber just abandoned Louisville. So, how is the expansion in Salt Lake City going?". The Salt Lake Tribune. https://www.sltrib.com/news/2019/02/18/google-fiber-just/. Retrieved 2019-03-02. "'Google has not lived up to the hype,' said Pete Ashdown, founder and CEO of XMission, Utah’s first internet service provider and a Google Fiber competitor in some areas. We've seen retraction over and over,” Ashdown said. 'You've got to wonder if this Salt Lake expansion is really in our future or are we going to be the next on the list that they halt expansion on?'"
- Mark Frauenfelder (2005-07-21). "Pete Ashdown for US Senate". Boing Boing. Archived from the original on 2005-07-23. https://web.archive.org/web/20050723020736/http://www.boingboing.net/2005/07/21/pete_ashdown_for_us_.html. Retrieved 2019-03-02. "Anyhoo, I'm currently the sole Democratic challenger to Senator Orrin "MPAA/RIAA" Hatch in Utah. I founded the first ISP in Utah, XMission, in 1993, and have been a net.denizen since 1987.""
- Lisa Riley Roche (2011-11-08). "Pete Ashdown to try again to unseat Sen. Hatch". Deseret News (Salt Lake City). https://www.deseretnews.com/article/705393968/Pete-Ashdown-to-try-again-to-unseat-Sen-Hatch.html. Retrieved 2019-03-02. "In his last bid to unseat Hatch, Ashdown won 31 percent of the vote. He said he has about the same chance of beating the six-term senator this time, but still feels a need to try."
- "Pete Ashdown announces US Senate run against Orrin Hatch". Q Salt Lake. 2011-11-11. Archived from the original on 2011-11-13. https://web.archive.org/web/20111113184940/http://www.qsaltlake.com/2011/11/11/pete-ashdown-announces-us-senate-run/. Retrieved 2019-03-02. "Former U.S. Senate candidate and founder and owner of XMission, Pete Ashdown, took to the steps of the Utah State Capitol Building this afternoon to announce his campaign to be the next U.S. Senator from Utah, a seat currently held by Sen. Orrin Hatch."
- Marjorie Cortez (2012-04-21). "Utah Democrats pick Scott Howell as candidate for U.S. Senate". Deseret News (Salt Lake City). https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865554451/Utah-Democratic-Senate-hopefuls-woo-delegate-support-votes-to-be-conducted-later-day.html. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
- Taylor W. Anderson (2013-06-21). "Utah debates child safety vs. Internet privacy: Critics question the law that allows investigators to obtain customer records without a warrant". The Salt Lake Tribune. https://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=56489014&itype=CMSID. Retrieved 2019-03-02. "An outspoken proponent of customer privacy, Ashdown said if prosecutors ask him for information without first obtaining a warrant, his company's policy is to deny, ignore or shred the subpoena to protect customer privacy."
- Hallie Golden (2016-05-23). "Utah lawmaker wants porn filtered from Internet, anti-porn software installed on all cellphones". The Salt Lake Tribune. https://www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2016/05/23/utah-lawmaker-wants-porn-filtered-from-internet-anti-porn-software-installed-on-all-cellphones/. Retrieved 2019-02-27. "Pete Ashdown, founder of Salt Lake City-based Internet provider XMission, said completely filtering the Internet of porn is impossible from a technological standpoint, citing China's failure to fully restrict its citizens' access to certain parts of the Internet. He said it would likely involve finding and filtering out each individual website that contains porn."
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