A Statement on Independence

I’m very often accused of being paid for what I do here at FreeUTOPIA. I’ve also been accused of working for UTOPIA, one of its contractors, or one of its providers. One person even went so far as to claim that I’m simply republishing things written by someone else.

All of these claims are completely and totally false. Full stop. Period. End of story.

I’ve been doing FreeUTOPIA on my own dime for almost eight years. It started on a VERY humble Pentium III 550MHz box in my home office running on my home Internet connection. I moved it several years later to VPS hosting, then again to shared hosting (because VPS ain’t cheap). I’ve spent a lot of time going to legislative and city council meetings on my own dime, have hosted multiple events for UTOPIA supporters around the Wasatch Front, and have always been ready to answer questions from supporters and detractors alike. When I don’t know the answer, I go find it.

All of my content is my own. I get stories and tips passed along, and I’m solely responsible for writing up the articles and adding my own spin to it. Some people will accuse me of being a crappy journalist and my response is always the same: I don’t consider myself a journalist (at least not in any traditional sense). See the tagline at the top? It’s pretty clear I’m in advocacy work. My writing is obviously biased and I wear that on my sleeve. If you need to take what I write with a grain of salt as a result, so be it. That’s a lot better than being highly opinionated and trying to spin what I do dispassionately.

Do I know a lot of people involved with UTOPIA? Well duh. I wouldn’t be very good at this if I didn’t. I can pick up the phone or shoot off an email to multiple contacts at UTOPIA, Macquarie, XMission, Veracity, SumoFiber, WebWave, and others when I need a question answered. I was the only one actually talking to Prime Time Communications when they went under and delivering the deeper details.. I did far more legwork on warning iProvo about the dangers of doing business with Broadweave than anyone else, warnings that proved to be completely accurate. I’ve been working on a story about the sale of AFCNet for over two years. There is nobody in the state, the country, or probably the world that can tell you more about the broadband business in Utah than I can. That’s why when a reporter needs to get up-to-speed quickly, I’m one of the first people they call.

And yet, I haven’t made any money doing this. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I won’t run ads on the site and I’ve turned down direct requests from service providers to do so. I won’t even put an anonymous tip jar on the site because I don’t know that it wouldn’t compromise my ability to stay independent. I pay for hosting out of my own pocket (though granted it’s shared with a bunch of other personal projects). I’ve even spent almost $400 of my own money this month on running Facebook ads to promote articles on the proposed deal with Macquarie because I believe in it this much. It’s a drop in the bucket compared to what CenturyLink is paying their friends at the Utah Taxpayers Association to tear this thing down.

If you think I’m paid for this, the joke is on you. I’d be happy to meet you face-to-face and show you how little my bank account has to show for it. “Put your money where your mouth is” is a rare thing these days, so I can understand that there are people who won’t believe it. Just because it’s uncommon doesn’t mean it’s untrue.

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10 Responses to A Statement on Independence

  1. Richard says:

    You are clearly making a difference, because you have a large target on your back. Keep up the good work.

  2. Mike says:

    I agree with Richard. I’ve learned more about UTOPIA and the Macquarie deal by following your links and reading your posts than by any other means. You’ve clearly stated this is NOT a perfect deal, BUT it’s probably the best we are going to get, considering the bad shape UTOPIA is in right now. Many thanks for your keen ability to cut through the crap.

  3. Tristan Rhodes says:

    Keep up the great work, Jesse! I know you have a lot of silent readers who look forward to your analysis on current events in the broadband world.

  4. Ronald D. Hunt says:

    You do an excellent job, don’t let any idiot internet trolls tell yea otherwise.

  5. Greg says:

    This is my go-to site to find out about UTOPIA news. As committed as I am to getting my neighborhood on board to get UTOPIA, I’m not where near committed as you are in bringing UTOPIA to the masses, and from my understanding, you aren’t even in a UTOPIA city.

    Bottom line, you should be paid for your work here, because you seem to be doing more than most that want UTOPIA to succeed. When UTOPIA succeeds, it will be in large part to you. The fact that you do this at your own expense is amazing.

  6. Mike Porter says:


    I respect your commitment to stay independent; however, I fail to see how an anonymous tip jar would compromise that. Anyone who violated the anonymity could easily have the tip returned.

    It would also be possible to set up a “double blind” tip jar wherein a third party individual accepts and collects the tips, then passes them to you. That way you’d have no way to know where a given to came from or even how many tips you were getting. Harder to be transparent that way, but no possibility of bias since you’d never be able to find out where it came from. I suspect that there would be no shortage of volunteers on this site, should you choose to do that.

    • Jesse says:

      The “double blind” idea is a good one, but ultimately the problem is that I don’t want it to even look like I’m doing this for money. Maintaining transparency on any money coming in also means doing all kinds of tax things like registering a non-profit and doing some accounting. I don’t think I’m at a point where I want to make that leap.

  7. Jason Russell says:

    It’s a shame your integrity is in doubt when so many other loud voices in this debate deserve much more scrutiny. Thanks for all the work you do.

  8. Paul Larsen says:

    What Jason said!

  9. Tim Parcell says:

    You may just be the person that ‘frees UTOPIA’. We are here to support your efforts. Thank you so much.

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