Pete Ashdown

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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.

Internet career

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.

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.[1]

In June, 2013, Ashdown published an article in Transmission, XMission's inhouse magazine for customers, entitled The NSA and XMission.[2] 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".[3] 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.

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.[4] 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.[5][6] 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.[7]


  1. Art Raymond (2018-07-12). "Lawmaker looks to keep Utah net neutral". Deseret News. 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.'" 
  2. Pete Ashdown (2013-06-10). "The NSA and XMission". Transmission. Retrieved 2019-03-02. 
  3. 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. 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.'". 
  4. Mark Frauenfelder (2005-07-21). "Pete Ashdown for US Senate". Boing Boing. Archived from the original on 2005-07-23. 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."" 
  5. Lisa Riley Roche (2011-11-08). "Pete Ashdown to try again to unseat Sen. Hatch". Deseret News (Salt Lake City). 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." 
  6. "Pete Ashdown announces US Senate run against Orrin Hatch". Q Salt Lake. 2011-11-11. Archived from the original on 2011-11-13. 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." 
  7. Marjorie Cortez (2012-04-21). "Utah Democrats pick Scott Howell as candidate for U.S. Senate". Deseret News (Salt Lake City). Retrieved 2019-03-02. 

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