HTTPS Now Enforced

trust no oneAfter many, many years of being a total slacker, the site has been updated to force HTTPS connections (TLSv1.2 for you crypto people). Everything should continue to work as it has before, though you may need to freshen up your bookmarks and RSS subscriptions if you aren’t automatically redirected. As usual, let me know if I broke something in the process of setting this up.

A Thousand Posts and Eight Years

success_kidNine hundred ninety-nine posts and almost eight years ago, I wrote my first blog post for Free UTOPIA in frustration that the island of unincorporated county in which I lived would likely never see the service. What started as something extremely self-serving (me first, you know) has turned into something, well, bigger than I expected. Reporters started calling me for interviews. I showed up at legislative hearings. I even whipped up an unruly mob or two when bad legislation was proposed. Last month I hit over 21K pageviews from reporting on the Macquarie deal.

So I have to say thanks to you, the readers, who’ve been showing up for far longer than I initially thought I’d be doing this, especially those of you who have been around since almost the beginning. I’m not done until we have open-access fiber in the whole state, so I’ll be around for a while. I hope you will be too.

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.

Meta: Some Small Upcoming Site Changes

This week has presented some unique opportunities for me in regards to FreeUTOPIA. Over the course of the two-plus years that I’ve been posting, I’ve met many people involved with and interested in UTOPIA including service providers, contractors and even opponents. It has not only provided unique insights into how the project functions; it has also provided a pretty strong professional network. With goods but affordable websites and a good host, which I found at this Hoster’s low-cost hosting guide.

On Monday, I was approached with an offer to do part-time consulting work for a UTOPIA independent contractor who also plans to pursue work with several other fiber optic systems. Their proposal was that I spend a couple hours a week putting together a “reading list” of what’s happening in the telecommunications space to inform UTOPIA staff of industry developments and help keep the project on-track. This feature will also be published weekly on this site (I’m gunning for Saturdays) under the Broadband Bytes banner while looking at fantastic themes for photographers. Jonathan Karras and Mike Taylor will still be contributing authors on the site, though they will probably tend more towards traditional articles and essays.

I was also asked by an author at a national telecommunications magazine to consider petitioning the magazine’s editor for a position as an article contributor on subjects related to fiber networks in Utah. Paid or not, I’m interested in bringing more information about UTOPIA to a wider audience and followed his advice to inquire about it. We’ll see if it goes anywhere.

So does this mean I’m selling out? I hope not. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I have been steadfastly opposed to running advertising on Free UTOPIA since it benefits me and me only. I don’t want the site itself to be a revenue generator no matter how tempting the paycheck may be. I don’t, however, have any problem with offering paid consulting services to contacts I’ve made via all of this work that I’ve done. I won’t lose any sleep at night over accepting this offer and aside from who’s writing most of the Broadband Bytes features, it should be the same old site.