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Monitoring Workers A Growing Trend, But Wyoming Researcher Finds It Often Backfires

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By Renée Jean, Business and Tourism reporter
renee@cowboystatedaily.com

Employers have doubled their purchases of electronic monitoring software since the COVID-19 pandemic began, while employees doubled down on a phenomenon that’s become known as “quiet quitting.”

That might not be just a coincidence.

Always Watching

A Wyoming researcher has been studying the effects of companies electronically monitoring their employees – in their places of business and remotely – and has found that it can backfire in a big way, leading workers to break the rules more often than they otherwise might.

“We’re kind of seeing that quiet-quitting phenomenon now,” University of Wyoming’s business professor Dr. Chase Thiel told Cowboy State Daily. “You know, everybody went home, monitoring went up. 

“And I don’t think it’s coincidental that you’re seeing that now – not just because employers have monitored their employees, but I think, you know, that’s one indication that (employees) are not trusted and treated well. And because of those types of practices, you’re seeing a lot of passive behavior.”

While some employees may feel that monitoring enhances fairness by catching bad apples or making performance more objective, Thiel said most of those in his study have reacted negatively, particularly if monitoring is used punitively.

“They don’t trust me, they don’t value me, they don’t think I’m going to do good work, so why should I do good work?” Thiel said. “I mean, essentially, we’ve taken away someone’s natural drive to be good by monitoring them and these other types of repressive practices, so they have no internal drive to be a good employee anymore.”


University of Wyoming business professor Dr. Chase Theil has been studying electronic monitoring of employees.

Monitoring and Monitored

Johnathan Williams has been on both sides of employee monitoring in various jobs. In his position as a manager for Love’s in Laramie, he is both monitored and involved in monitoring others.

“It’s a two-fold issue, because there is that sense of security,” Williams told Cowboy State Daily. “It’s like OK, the time clock didn’t record my clock-in, but here’s the proof that I was on the clock and working at that time.”

But he’s also seen some of the negative impacts of electronic monitoring and believes that Thiel’s research is spot-on. In his experience, employees who feel that management is heavy-handed with the tools will provoke a lot of passive-aggressive behaviors that can be hard to catch. 

“If you understand the system, you can break the system,” Williams said. 

‘Stuff Can Happen’

He’s also noticed that his mechanics tend to head straight for the bathroom anytime they’ve finished a job. 

This is something Thiel’s research notes as a potential consequence when employees are uncomfortable with constantly being watched.

“Some of my employees have voiced that it’s bad for their morale and that they don’t like being recorded every second they’re on the clock,” Williams said. “It makes them feel an undue pressure.”

Those messages aren’t necessarily coming from employees who are under-performing or just average performers either. Even some of his best employees have expressed unease, Williams said.

“I understand the principle behind it, I do,” he said. “They’re trying to make sure that everything is covered, not only for making sure that people aren’t doing what they’re not supposed to do, but also for the security of their employees. I mean it’s a big truck stop, and stuff can happen in the shadows out there.”

Reached by Cowboy State Daily about their employee monitoring, Love’s sent an email statement: “Like other major retailers and employers, Love’s systems, networks, devices and data are monitored for standard regulatory compliance and information security purposes.”

About the Research

Thiel started his research with a small survey of 100 employees across the United States, some who were monitored and some who weren’t. 

What he found was monitored employees reported taking more unapproved breaks, disregarding instructions, damaging workplace property, stealing equipment, purposely working at a slower pace and other types of passive-aggressive behavior designed to even the score with the employer.

The study shows only correlation, however, not causation, so Thiel did a second study with 200 U.S.-based employees, half of whom were told they would be electronically monitored.

The study participants were all given a series of tasks as well as an opportunity to cheat. Those who had been told they would be watched were more likely to take advantage of opportunities to cheat than those who didn’t know they were being watched.

For his next study, Thiel plans to dig in on the day-to-day experience of being monitored and explore questions like, what prompted managers to monitor and how did they use it? And, how did employees feel about it?

He hopes digging into the details about the day-to-day experiences will help him formulate evidence-based best practices. 

“(Monitoring) is a multi-, probably billion-dollar industry at this point,” Thiel said. “So, it’s not going to go anywhere. 

“But my hope is that through phenomena like quiet quitting, like we’re seeing now, and the great resignation, employers will recognize that they have to do things more humanely. Whereas monitoring is inherently an inhumane practice, I think they have to become very intentionally humane about how they administer it.”

Monitoring Not Always Bad

While Thiel’s research shows that employee monitoring can backfire, he ultimately believes not only that the trend is likely to stick, but that it could actually be a good thing in the end. 

It all depends on how monitoring workers is presented and used.

“Make it very clear what will and won’t be monitored,” Thiel said. “Make it clear what rights employees have in the monitoring process. Make it clear the data will not be reviewed by certain groups of people that could be threatening to employees, and the data won’t be used to punish employees rather than promote good behavior.”

Don’t Assume the Worst

Motive also matters. Monitoring employees to catch them acting bad is the wrong motive, he said.

“If that’s your motivation, then you have the wrong set of assumptions about the people you’ve hired,” he said. “You should assume that the people you hire want to do good work and are good people. If you don’t, then you’re hiring incorrectly. 

“And if that’s your motivation, people will experience monitoring in a punitive way, and they will feel threatened by it, so that should never be the reason.”

Another key, Thiel said, is to focus less on inputs and more on outputs. That way minor imperfections don’t become a detrimental focal point that leaves employees feeling powerless, even though they may already be meeting the bottom line.

“When we’re in school, we don’t send the message that everybody should be doing their work the same way at the same pace,” Thiel said. “But in a lot of workplaces, we send that message by monitoring people and kind of sending this message that you need to be working all the time, according to the standards we’ve set.

But that’s, No. 1, unrealistic and No. 2, it ignores the fact that some people just have, we all have different kinds of work approaches and learning styles.”

Focusing on outputs also lessens the need to monitor daily inputs and can help focus it on more helpful areas.

“Companies that measure inputs tend to micromanage,” he said. “But companies that measure outputs tend to put more trust in their employees and focus on, you know, figure out how you get it done, but here’s what I need from you.”

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Internet Company Entering Wyoming Market Says 1GB Is Minimum Speed, 10GB For Business

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By Renee Jean, business and tourism reporter
renee@cowboystatedaily.com

Spending up to $80 million to build out high-speed fiber-to-home networks in four Wyoming communities is just the tip of a multimillion-dollar spear aimed at piercing an internet veil for Western and Midwestern states.

Wyoming ranks near the bottom of the nation for overall internet coverage, speed, availability and costs, according to broadband.com, which lists the Cowboy State as 47th in the United States. Average internet speeds in the state also are slower than average at about 200 Mbps.

Bluepeak’s speed is 1 gigabyte per second, the company’s Cheyenne representative Travis French told Cowboy State Daily. It can range up to 10 gigabytes per second for businesses, according to the company’s website.

Fiber To Homes

Bluepeak’s fiber-to-home network is a potential game-changer for Wyoming and five other states on the company’s list for major broadband investment – Oklahoma, Missouri, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota. 

Along with high-speed Internet, Bluepeak also offers Internet-based television bundles, and French said it’s also considering potential cellphone services as well, although that is not yet part of any of its packages.

French was at a recent Cheyenne Business to Business Expo with a booth showing off the company’s plans. He told Cowboy State Daily he believes the high speeds alone are a big selling point for Bluepeak in Cheyenne, despite a relatively crowded field there. 

Industry powerhouses Spectrum, Verizon and CenturyLink all offer combinations of internet, phone and television services. 

“(Those companies) do offer higher speeds, depending on how much you want to pay,” French said. “But our minimum speed is 1 gigabit per second, and that’s upload and download speed. And that’s with everything included — installation, equipment and all that for just $55 a month. That price is also locked in for five years as well.”

Another selling point is fiber is more durable and reliable, French said. 

“Because it is glass, it’s not going to degrade. It’s not prone to water damage or anything like that,” he said. “Fiber lines last much longer (than coaxial), and if there is trouble or anything, if a line breaks, we just switch it out.”


Getty Images

Aggressive Expansion

French estimates Bluepeak is connecting 10-15 homes or businesses a day in Cheyenne and has reached at least 1,000 subscribers. The company hopes to reach all of Cheyenne by 2024. 

The timetable also calls for being in most, if not all, of Laramie, Casper and Sheridan by 2025, after which French said the company will begin looking at its next opportunities in Wyoming and other states.

Bluepeak’s investment is all private money, French said. Grants from federal funds like the American Rescue Plan Act are not paying for the buildout in any of the states or cities the company is actively building lines right now, he said.

Filling Service Gaps

Laramie Chamber Business Alliance President and CEO Brad Enzi told Cowboy State Daily that Wyoming is aware of gaps in the state’s broadband services. It’s something officials have been working hard to improve, recognizing that the next generation workforce is going to demand it.

“I think when COVID hit, what we saw in Wyoming were the gaps that we had,” he said. “Kids switched to online school and businesses went remote and everybody who didn’t know anything about Zoom now knows about Zoom. 

“And we all found out what it looks like when Zoom doesn’t work well with the speed of the Internet and where our gaps in services are in the state.”

Vital Service

Enzi and other economic leaders in the state believe improving Wyoming’s high-speed connectivity and access is not just important for future economic development, but vital.

“If we don’t have it, you can be sure we won’t get them,” Enzi said about the potential to miss out on economic opportunities. “The more that we can, you know, capitalize on the ability to move remote workers to places that have higher speed internet in Wyoming, that will build our workforce and the depth and breadth of our technological expansion. 

“Because the workforce will move here, you know. I think what we learned with COVID is nobody’s tethered to a location anymore.”

Open Spaces

Wyoming’s sparse population has at times been a barrier to putting in more expensive fiber connections, Enzi said.

“When companies look at where can we deploy capital and get the largest return, yeah, Wyoming’s not going to always be the first answer,” he said. “So, you have to look at, you know, how we augment that, to have the services there to allow us to participate in the … next generation of the workforce.”

French, meanwhile, said Bluepeak is seeing economies of scale working for states like Wyoming. 

“Fiber is very, very expensive,” he said. “But as the cost of producing fiber lines goes down, it’s more economically feasible for us to put it in smaller communities like Cheyenne, Casper and Sheridan as well.”

Enzi added he’s been impressed by the level of Bluepeak’s investment in Wyoming and other states.

“It’s staggering when you look at the rollout that they’re doing and the level,” he said. “I’ve had a crew in my driveway for the last four, five working days boring in the different lines and they’re still there today. 

“It’s an incredible investment being done at the private level and in partnership with the state, so we’re excited about it. We think it will continue to provide opportunity in Wyoming, and I think it starts to mirror what we know about the changing workforce.”

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Musk Backpedaling Comes Year After Wyoming Shut Down Twitter Anti-Censorship Legislation

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
clair@cowboystatedaily.com

Citing “false and misleading representations” by Twitter, the richest man on earth on Friday backed out of a $44 billion bid to buy the social media website.  

The backpedaling comes more than a year after Wyoming lawmakers voted against holding social media giants to free-speech standards.  

Elon Musk in April brokered a deal to buy Twitter, which touts about 400 million users. The platform is used by President Joe Biden, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and numerous Congresspeople and state legislators.  

Musk has long railed against a reported lack of fair user treatment by Twitter, which has been repeatedly observed banning politically conservative users or asking them to delete controversial posts.  

Civil Suits

Long before Musk’s offer, a handful of Wyoming legislators in 2021 tried to pass a bill allowing civil suits against social media sites on the basis of “viewpoint discrimination.” 

The bill died in the House Judiciary Committee last April following a 6-3 vote.  

One of its chief proponents was Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman, who now is vying for Wyoming’s U.S. House seat.   

Pointing to examples of social-media censorship especially in the wake of the 2020 election, Hageman told the committee last April that “viewpoint discrimination” should be disallowed for tech giants so big, they’re a type of “public square,” or center of communication.  

“We all recognize that these companies have become extremely powerful and extremely big, and they do have the ability to suppress speech, and they admit that,” Hageman said at the time.  

State Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, pushed back on Hageman, saying that social media companies shouldn’t have ongoing lawsuit fears when they take down content that they believe incites violence.  

“Are you saying that if I was a social media company, now I’m going to possibly face whatever penalties are in this bill if I start taking people’s stuff down?” asked Yin.  

Bill sponsor Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, countered Yin, saying her bill contained a caveat allowing computer services to censor “unlawful expression.”  

The committee majority bristled at the bill’s special restrictions on one type of business, and committee chair Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, who voted against the bill, had characterized it as a slippery slope of private-sector overreach. He also wondered aloud if it would be more appropriate for the federal government rather than state to declare social media giants as the “public square.” 

“Once we fully declare that these social media platforms are the public square, then whoever’s in power can ultimately define the viewpoints that are OK,” said Olsen. “I don’t want Nancy Pelosi defining for me what viewpoint is permissible or not permissible. When you take something out of the private sector, out of the free market… do we invite more danger than we do (help)?”

‘Silicon Valley Billionaires’

Hageman in an email to Cowboy State Daily three months ago re-stated her assertion that social media “has absolutely become the modern-day town square, where free speech should be at its most unfettered.” 

She also said that the entire matter shouldn’t be in the hands of “Silicon Valley billionaires,” but should be pursued via federal law.  

“Laws need to be reformed to reflect the rise of social media’s power, because they were written before it gained such prominence,” she said.  

Spam 

Twitter had claimed that about 5% of its monetizable daily active users are spam accounts. In a June letter by Musk’s attorney Mike Ringler, Ringler claimed that Twitter had “refused to provide the information” that would verify that claim.  

Musk in May had claimed that fake users make up at least 20% of all Twitter accounts. Twitter disagreed with the claim.  

Twitter has a right to sue Musk and force him to complete the deal or pay a $1 billion breakup fee, the New York times reported Friday.  

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Hageman Says Big Tech Law Changes Needed Even With Elon Musk Purchase Of Twitter

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By Clair McFarland, Staff Writer

Federal laws guaranteeing free speech rights on social media outlets such as Twitter are needed regardless of the ownership of those outlets, according to congressional candidate Harriet Hageman.

Hageman, reacting to the announcement that frequent Twitter critic Elon Musk has become Twitter’s largest shareholder, said she still believes Congress needs to draft free speech laws for such operations.

“Elon Musk is a great innovator and disruptor of the status quo,” Hageman wrote in a Tuesday email to Cowboy State Daily. “We don’t know what impact he will have on Twitter, but right now the platform is an obvious, aggressive opponent of true freedom of expression.” 

Musk, the CEO of Tesla, is joining the Twitter board of directors after years of railing against Twitter’s content policy, which he has openly called censorship. His 9.2% ownership of the company, which was announced Monday, makes him Twitter’s largest shareholder.

Former president Donald Trump, attorney Sidney Powell, entrepreneur Marjorie Taylor Greene, former baseball player Aubrey Huff and satire forum Babylon Bee all have been suspended from Twitter, which cited its content policies against false or manipulated information in making the suspensions. 

“You may not deceptively share synthetic or manipulated media that are likely to cause harm,” reads Twitter’s content policy, along with other stipulations.  

Town Square 

A few days before his acquisition of Twitter stock, Musk repeated his assertion that Twitter serves as a “town square” for voicing opinions and must be committed to allowing freedom of speech.

“Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy,” he tweeted on March 26. “What should be done?” 

As a Cheyenne attorney, Hageman has promoted the recognition of Twitter and Facebook as “town square” giants that should be forced by federal law to guarantee free speech rights.

Hageman lobbied in 2021 for approval of a bill in the Wyoming Legislature that would have recognized the sites as influential enough to fall subject to First Amendment protections for their users.  

The bill would have forbidden “discrimination based on viewpoint, race, religion and location by interactive computer services, social media platforms and businesses as specified.” 

The bill died in the House Judiciary Committee, where members worried it would amount to government restrictions on private businesses.

Hageman, an opponent to U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney for the Republican nomination to Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that she feels the laws around social media still need to be revised.  

“Social media has absolutely become the modern-day town square,” wrote Hageman, “where free speech should be at its most unfettered. It ought to offend every American that a handful of Silicon Valley billionaires can restrict how people can express themselves.”  

But she suggested that the change needs addressed at the federal level as well. 

Hageman pointed specifically to a provision of the Communications Decency Act, “Section 230,” which specifies that operators of interactive computer services — such as Twitter and Facebook — cannot be held responsible for what is said on their platforms.

“What’s been at issue has been removing the protections social media companies enjoy in federal law that say they are not publishers, and therefore are not responsible for the content their users post,” she wrote. “Some have called for the complete removal of those protections, but that would have unintended consequences.”  

Sites like Twitter, Hageman wrote, may “censor even more aggressively” if Section 230 was removed.

Hageman said she hopes instead as a member of Congress to reform laws “to reflect the rise of social media’s power, because (the laws) were written before it gained such prominence. 

“Our goal,” she continued, “must be to protect free speech so that no one’s voice is silenced because of their political views.”  

Twitter Poised for Change 

Three days before his acquisition, Musk posted to Twitter a survey asking users if Twitter “rigorously adheres” to free speech. Of respondents, 70.4 % marked “no,” and 29.6% marked “yes.”  

Twitter’s stock has gained by 35% since Musk announced that he’s now the largest shareholder in the company. 

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Wyoming Companies Working To Provide High Speed Internet To Even Most Remote Communities

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

In this modern, high-tech world, access to the internet is essential. Whether it’s for streaming movies or doing homework, it’s almost impossible to live or work without broadband.

But in Wyoming, urban areas and solid wi-fi signals are few and far between. So the Wyoming Business Council is working hard to bridge the gap.

“I think a lot of Wyoming – I don’t think that there’s a lack of service entirely, but it’s underserved,” said Kristin Fong, Northwest Regional Director for the Wyoming Business Council. “So we’re a little slower, maybe, than other areas across the United States. And broadband is needed in order to grow businesses, in order to compete with other states that are making waves and growing constantly.”

Fong pointed out that because more and more people are working remotely and because schools are relying more heavily on internet-based applications, there has been an increased demand for broadband service.

“I mean, I’m on the internet all day long,” she said, “whether it be looking on your phone for directions on how to get somewhere, or checking your emails. And so for schools and teachers, educators, and college students, obviously, that’s a huge need, especially when classrooms are working remotely or hybrid.

“But we’re seeing a huge influx of people moving to the state, and they’re able to work remotely,” she continued. “And so, depending on where they want to live, there’s obviously a need for them to be able to access broadband. There’s huge demand, as much demand as there is for housing.”

Several companies around the state are working to address that demand. TCT West, based in the small town of Basin, has led the charge in northern Wyoming to increase access to broadband signals.

Richard Wardell, Executive Director for TCT West, said TCT has moved past the traditional copper wiring to fiber optics, which increases upload and download speeds exponentially.

“Where we offer fiber services, we have gigabit and potentially even multiple gigabit speeds capable,” he said. “And so we’re at that paradigm shift of moving from the old technology of copper, transitioning to fiber, which means when we move to that direction, we’re able to deliver gigabit and above to those customers that can touch the fiber.”

Wardell noted that with fiber optics, distance is not an issue, which is important in a state where communities lie miles apart.

“In the DSL (digital subscriber line) days, if you’re over 4,000 feet from the electronics, you basically would be considered underserved by today’s standards, because you can’t receive at least 25 (megabytes per second download) by 3 (mbps upload),” he said. “But distance changes all that with fiber. And so now, if we can get fiber to your home, we can provide 100 by 100 very easily. And the gigabit is all kind of all the same at that point.”

Wardell pointed out that TCT is working hard to expand that service – even in remote locations such as Ten Sleep, Hyattville and Manderson.

In 2019, TCT was awarded a federal government contract through the “Connect America” program to expand broadband services to homes in rural areas in north-central Wyoming.

“Recently with a ‘Connect Wyoming’ build we (took fiber optics to homes) between Manderson and Worland,” Wardell said. “We have some fiber services in Basin and in Greybull, and we did a big build in Shell. Also portions of Lovell, we did quite a bit of work in Cowley, and we took services from Deaver towards Powell.”

The Wyoming Business Council, in recognizing the need for greater access to internet service in this primarily rural state, has come up with a way for residents to be their own advocates.

“So, we’ve got a Broadband Advisory Council, which is a group of local community leaders spread around the state weighing in on how that looks, and where we need the service,” Fong said. “And they’ve put together a very cool, very useful tool, so that we get a better understanding of what service looks like in all of the places that we’re using broadband. It’s getting the evidence that we need in order to prove the need.” 

The speed test, which can be found on the Business Council’s website, allows residents to submit the internet speed at their particular location. Fong said that the data allows the Business Council to prioritize where to focus their efforts on advocating for more access to broadband signals for residents and businesses around Wyoming.

“I think the key is to take the speed test really frequently, at different times of day and in different locations,” she said. “You can take it on your laptop at home, you can take it on your tablet, while you’re trying to watch movies at night, you take it when you’re at school, trying to do classwork, and take it at your place of business. 

“Take it as many times as you can in as many locations as you can,” she continued. “If we can take measurements of what that service looks like across the state, then we’ll have a better idea of where we need to pinpoint and where we need to increase activity.”

Wardell added that the expansion of high-speed internet service to more rural locations is a draw for younger people to move to Wyoming.

“Without internet, you’re not going to attract young families that have the ability to telecommute and telehealth,” he said. “You’re not going to attract people, if you don’t have the ability to have broadband. And so if you look at attracting businesses, attracting families, broadband plays a key role in all of that.”

In 2021, the website WhistleOut.com reported that Wyoming saw a 62.6 percent increase in average internet speed across the state. 

But the work to blanket the state in high-speed, reliable internet access continues, according to Fong.

“If we’re in a small town like Meeteetse, and the school superintendent is telling me that they can’t be checking their email from their home at the same time that their child is trying to zoom class, that’s really important information to gather and to bring back to Cheyenne,” she said.

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Wyoming Crypto Expert Says Trump is Dead-Wrong on Bitcoin

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State

The founder of a Wyoming financial company that focuses on digital assets such as Bitcoin had just two words after she heard former President Donald Trump’s claims that Bitcoin is a scam.

“Ok boomer,” Caitlin Long tweeted in response to Trump’s comments on Fox on Monday.

Trump appeared on Fox with Stuart Varney on Monday morning and discussed certain types of investment, but the former president was not on board with Bitcoin.

“Bitcoin, it just seems like a scam,” he said. “I don’t like it because it’s another currency competing against the dollar. I want the dollar to be the currency of the world, that’s what I’ve always said.”

Long, a Wyoming native who has worked to make digital currency more accessible in the state, was none too pleased to hear these comments.

“ugh, ok #boomer. #bitcoin is many things, but a scam is not one of them,” Long wrote on Twitter, retweeting the clip of Trump’s comments.

Bitcoin is a digital currency that eliminates the need for traditional intermediaries, such as a bank or the government, to make a financial transaction. According to financial website NerdWallet, fiat money (such as the U.S. dollars in a bank account) is backed and regulated by the government that issues it.

Bitcoin, however, is powered through technology and software. The currency is backed by code instead of something like gold or silver.

Each bitcoin is stored in a digital wallet on a computer or smartphone as a computer file. It is powered by an open-source called blockchain. Basically, every transaction is a “block” that is chained to the code, which creates a permanent record of each transaction.

Long was deeply involved in legislative efforts that led to Wyoming becoming the first state in the nation to develop rules to regulate the blockchain technology.

Her work led in 2019 to legislative approval of a bill allowing the creation of “Special Purpose Depository Institutions” for the handling of cryptocurrency transactions.

Wyoming’s work has made it the only state in the nation where banks working with both digital and traditional assets can operate.

Wyoming is also soon to be home to the first two digital currency banks in the world, one of which (Avanti) is operated by Long and the other (Kraken) she is a shareholder in.

Long has also teamed up with U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis to work on blockchain and Bitcoin-related issues. The senator was disappointed by Trump’s comments about Bitcoin, but looked forward to chatting with him sometime about its virtues.

“Former President Trump has always said he wants to make America great again, and I absolutely agree with that sentiment. Unfortunately, America is at serious risk of falling behind China and other nations in financial innovation. Bitcoin can help ensure the US dollar remains the world reserve currency,” Lummis told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “The Biden Administration is debasing the dollar. Financial innovation is how we ensure sound money and protect America’s place as the land of financial freedom and economic opportunity for all.”

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Wyoming to Be Home to One of the World’s Fastest Supercomputers

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

One of the fastest supercomputers in the world will be in operation in Cheyenne by next year, where it will help scientists research a wide range of weather phenomena that affect society.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research announced this week that its new supercomputer would be funded by Hewlett-Packard to the tune of $35-$40 million. Once operational, the HPE-powered system is expected to rank among the top 25 or so fastest supercomputers in the world.

The supercomputer will be installed in Cheyenne sometime this year and will be operational by early 2022. It will replace the current system, which is known as “Cheyenne.”

“This new system is a major step forward in supercomputing power, providing the scientific community with the most cutting-edge technology to better understand the Earth system,” said Anke Kamrath, director of NCAR’s Computational and Information Systems Laboratory. “The resulting research will lead to new insights into potential threats ranging from severe weather and solar storms to climate change, helping to advance the knowledge needed for improved predictions that will strengthen society’s resilience to potential disasters.”

NCAR is holding a statewide contest for Wyoming students to propose a name for the new system.

The new machine will help scientists conduct research needed to better understand a range of phenomena that affect society, from the behavior of major wildfires to eruptions caused by solar storms that can threaten GPS and other sensitive technologies.

The new computer will have the ability to perform 19.87 quadrillion calculations per second, almost 3.5 times the speed of the Cheyenne supercomputer. That is the equivalent of every man, woman, and child on the planet solving one equation every second for a month.

“More powerful supercomputing is a vital component of the research infrastructure of our nation, enabling scientists to advance fundamental research and deepen our understanding of the complex and interconnected nature of the Earth system,” NCAR Director Everette Joseph said. “This new NWSC system will support basic research in ways that will lead to more detailed and useful predictions of the world around us, thereby helping to make our society more resilient to increasingly costly disasters and contributing to improved human health and well-being.”

In 2017, IBM contracted with the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center in Cheyenne with a project to help improve weather forecasting around the globe. 

Since the NWSC opened its doors in 2012, more than 4,000 users from more than 575 universities and other institutions across the nation and overseas have used its resources. 

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Man Goes On Profanity-Laced Tirade After Crashing Wyo Ag Dept Zoom Call

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By Mark Davis, Powell Tribune

Not even an obscure Zoom meeting of the Wyoming Animal Damage Management Board could escape 2020 unscathed. 

As about 16 state and federal officials discussed the compensation offered to producers who lose livestock to wolves in certain parts of the state, their progress was briefly slowed by an outburst from an unknown person in attendance at virtual meeting last week. 

The board was carefully considering how to respond to a portion of a four-part comment on the compensation program when a man only known as “Robert” voted nay. His vote went largely unnoticed, being in the vast minority. 

But as the board considered its reply to another portion of the public comment, Robert interrupted with a largely unintelligible string of profanities and racial slurs. 

While there have been many documented cases of people crashing Zoom meetings since the start of the pandemic, it was a bit shocking to most in attendance that someone found the group charged with replying to comments on wolf depredation compensation within Wyoming’s predator zone — let alone spent time attempting to sabotage the meeting. 

It was about 14 minutes into the board’s discussion that the profanities and slurs began. 

“Oh good, that’s handy,” Doug Miyamoto, co-chair of the board and director of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, sarcastically remarked. 

Jerry Johnson of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who was administering the meeting, eventually was forced to remove Robert and the board continued after apologies and a couple chuckles. 

“That was a first for me,” Johnson said.

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Wyo Tech School Founder Eric Trowbridge to Speak at National Tech Summit

in News/Technology
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Eric Trowbridge, the founder of a Cheyenne technology school aimed at introducing students to computer programming, plans to tell attendees at a national technology conference that technology can work in rural America.

Trowbridge, founder and CEO of the Array Technology and Design School, will be one of the speakers at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit in Salt Lake City at the end of January.

The Cheyenne high school graduate said he plans to tell the more than 20,000 people expected to attend that the technology industry can find a home in rural states like Wyoming.

“The message is that technology can work in rural America,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “It’s a very different animal from doing technology in big cities. The challenge we have in running technology in rural American is … for technology to thrive, you have to have really smart people, you have to have people who understand computer science and programming and graphic design and that’s kind of hard to come by in states like Wyoming.”

But with schools like Array, residents can be trained in the skills needed to sustain a successful technology sector, Trowbridge said.

The state can help with such efforts by making sure it creates a welcoming atmosphere for people who may want to pursue a technology-based career, he said.

“The number one mission should be to try to create the most fertile soil possible so when these seeds get planted, they grow into companies, entrepreneurship,” he said. 

“The things we’re working on now (are) the cultural piece. Having young adults who are in this space, people who want to transition into technology, being able to go see shows and go to restaurants and have that experience,” he said.

The state has made major advances toward welcoming the technology field in recent years, Trowbridge said, through steps such as mandating computer science education for all public school students.

Trowbridge said Wyoming has a history of being the first state in the nation to take bold steps, such as giving women the right to vote, electing a woman as governor and having the first national park and monument.

“It’s not about changing Wyoming, it’s about tapping into our roots,” he said. “It’s in our nature to be pioneers and drivers and cowboys and cowgirls.”

Trowbridge credited much of the state’s progress go former Gov. Matt Mead, who he said recognized the need to make technology the “fourth leg” of the state’s economic base, joining energy, agriculture and tourism.

The resulting boost helped move the state from its reliance on historic industries, he said.

“I think we got too comfortable, we didn’t innovate,” he said. “We just thought things were going to be the way that they were.”

The opportunities for economic diversification offered by the technology industry will help the state overcome the problems it has faced because of its reliance on the energy industry, Trowbridge said.

“At the end of the day, as scary as it is, we have to get off of it because a lot of people get hurt when we go into that bust cycle,” he said. “People lose their jobs and they leave Wyoming.”

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