Eight years ago Bitcoin was an experimental technology of interest to niche enthusiasts only. The digital currency is much bigger now.
It's traded worldwide. There is even a business presence for it in central Illinois.
Joe Ciccolo of Bloomington Normal is a Bitcoin consultant, advising businesses on how to use and trade the currency on encrypted exchanges. Ciccolo said it's no surprise governments are looking into offering their own crypto-currency.
The crypto-currency expert said the world will eventually fully embrace digital money much as a cashless economy is already standard for many in developed nations.
"I think we are used to a centralized system of financial services. People have joked that one day we will see Fedcoin from the Federal Reserve here in the U.S. That wouldn't surprise me. What it boils down to is we will have digital currency, but will it be centralized, decentralized, or both," said Ciccolo.
Ciccolo said initial concerns that Bitcoin is too anonymous to prevent misuse by criminals have given way to aggressive regulation in many countries. In the U.S., for instance, he said various federal agencies treat Bitcoin as property for taxation, and as both a commodity and a security for trading and lending.
Bitcoin remains a work in progress. The federal government rejected a proposal March 10 to create the first Bitcoin exchange traded fund in U.S. markets. The Securities and Exchange Commission ruled the currency is not ready to be treated as an ordinary commodity because there remains concern about market manipulation. Sudden changes in volume of trading on some Bitcoin exchanges in January also provoked questions of regulatory effectiveness in some countries.
Ciccolo said the best use for Bitcoin so far is international remittances, such as immigrants sending money to family in other countries.
"The system we have now just doesn't work. It's broken. You are waiting, in some cases, five to seven days to send a transaction, not to mention exorbitant rates that are sometimes charged for that service when they can do it instantaneously from their smartphone using Bitcoin," said Ciccolo.
In this conversation with GLT's Charlie Schlenker, Ciccolo talks about what he does and where it's going.
WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.