The time John Curtis threw me under the bus

By Jesse Harris

John Curtis has successfully made the jump from well-known and well-liked mayor to Utah’s latest Congresscritter. Once a firebrand (to use polite terms) like Chris Herrod passed through convention, it was a foregone conclusion in the primary. I don’t know what kind of Representative we should expect Curtis to be, but I do know that I don’t trust him based on my own experience.

I’ve been blogging about broadband since August 2006. That includes closely following UTOPIA, SFCN, the now-mostly-defunct AFCNet, and iProvo. Of these, iProvo provided some of the best drama. The HomeNet demise, Broadwave proving that they were not up to the task in any way shape or form, Veracity attempting to pick up the pieces, and Curtis’ major feather in his cap, Google taking over.

On August 8, 2011, I met with John Curtis at his request to talk about the iProvo situation. I remember it as a pleasant and friendly half hour or so where he had me brain dump about what I know. I had also talked with Veracity, then the sole service provider and operator on the network, to get their perspective. (Go read a summary of those meetings and my recommendations.) Curtis had been doing a lot of work to figure out what to do with the network since it was very much an unpopular hot potato.

Fast forward to April 16, 2013.

Rumors had been going around that Google was going to be taking over iProvo. Based on the meetings I’d had and the evidence I’d seen, that seemed preposterous. Google was only doing new (“greenfield”) deployments, not taking over existing networks. Provo’s risk aversion also seemed to rule out sweetening the pot enough to get Google’s interest. Also, I felt like I was on the inside track of any such information and I’d heard nothing. Mayor Curtis had come to me for input; would he really cut me out of such a big announcement?

The next day I learned the answer to that question was a resounding yes. In very grand fashion. Over 10,000 people came to my post saying that it wasn’t going to happen after it was announced that, well, yes, it was. It was embarrassing and humiliating. It also largely destroyed my ability to criticize the deal with any authority as everyone would just say “you were wrong before, so I’m going to believe that you’re wrong now”. The awful deal in which Provo would shoulder all of the bond costs while Google stood to make a small fortune went through with barely a concern raised by the council. Even now when I point out Google’s obvious moves away from Fiber and the numerous problems with the system in Provo, I still get people dismissively calling me the guy who called it wrong. It wasn’t a matter of keeping it a state secret either. A blog that was friendly to Curtis was tipped off at least a day in advance and was more than happy to yell “scoop” from the rooftops.

John hasn’t said a word to me since. Apparently he got what he wanted, an information dump he could use in decision-making, and decided to hang me out to dry so I wouldn’t get in the way of his planned deal. Hey, that’s politics, and it was probably smart politics. But that kind of devious underhanded backstabbing doesn’t jive with his “nice guy” image that he worked so hard to build. It makes me wonder exactly what kind of member of Congress he’s going to actually end up being.

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