The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 17, 2014

Bitcoin: Bubble or future of money?

By Robert Stoneback
The Daily Item

— RIVERSIDE — Bitcoin, the Internet currency gaining in popularity, has made its way to the Susquehanna Valley.

The Riverside Adventure Company began accepting Bitcoins as payment last year, and while few have taken advantage of the service, owner David Decoteau is still excited to be on board.

“I’ve been a Bitcoin owner for about two years and it seemed like an interesting alternate currency for a lot of reasons both practical and political,” he said. “It’s gaining in popularity so I thought, why not be in front of it.”

Bitcoin was introduced in 2009 and is described on its website as “cash for the internet.” Bitcoins are primarily digital, kept in an online wallet, though a few manufacturers create physical Bitcoins.

Online retailer Overstock.com recently started accepting Bitcoin as payment.

Because people have assigned value to Bitcoins it can be counted as an actually currency, according to Dr. Matt Rousu, associate professor of economics for Susquehanna University.

“A currency pretty much by definition is anything used to facilitate transactions. So by definition Bitcoin is currently a currency,” he said. “The U.S. dollar only has value because people think it will have value in the future.”

While the value of Bitcoins can fluctuate, they are currently worth between $800 and $900. Their value has greatly increased over the last few years. Decouteau first bought Bitcoins of his own in late 2012, and while he didn’t want to reveal how much he spent he did say that he has made back the initial cost and still has some Bitcoins left. What people need to realize, he said, is that Bitcoin is not a stock but a currency. It’s meant to be spent, not saved, he said.

Decouteau accepts Bitcoin for race registrations with the Adventure Company as well as for the rental and purchase of items within the store, such as kayaks and canoes. “Anything I would sell for money I would sell for Bitcoin,” he said.

Bitcoin has yet to seriously catch on in the Valley, though. “Nobody’s walked off the street yet and said I’d like to buy in Bitcoin,” Decoteau said.

One point in the currency’s favor is that there is no transaction fee associated with it, as there is with credit cards and debit cards. If more businesses were aware of that, Decoteau believes they would be more willing to jump on board. “I think they have to be convinced that it’s not a hard thing to transact.”

Accepting Bitcoin is also easy, Decouteau said, as it only requires a Bitcoin program which can be downloaded to a computer or phone. All transactions then occur between the online Bitcoin accounts.

Rousu agrees the lack of a transaction fee is an advantage for Bitcoin, but there still is skepticism among some economists. “It could still go up in value dramatically,” he said. However, “there are some economists who think it is an enormous bubble.”

Because Bitcoin can be used anonymously, it is possible the American government may decide to outlaw Bitcoin if they find it is being used too often to facilitate illegal activities, he said.

For his part, Rousu is not looking to purchase Bitcoins any time soon. “I could be wrong, there are many smart people right now who are investing in Bitcoin,” he said. However, since it currently has no value outside of being currency, it’s not something he wants to invest in.

Decouteau, though, sees a bright future for this futuristic currency. “It could change the way everyone in the world does business,” he said.