EDMONTON – Over the past five years its value has sky-rocketed. Now, an Edmonton group is hoping to raise the profile of Bitcoin even more.
“Edmonton has the fastest growing Bitcoin community in the country. We’re adding businesses faster than any other city. More people are coming to our meet ups than any other city,” says Peter Dushenski.
Dushenski is a Bitcoin community developer. On Saturday, he hosted Coinfest Edmonton, an event where people could learn some Bitcoin basics.
(Above: Peter Dushenski talks about Coinfest Edmonton on the Global Edmonton Saturday Morning News)
“You can exchange value to anyone in the world with essentially no fees – and instantly – and there’s really no middle man,” he says.
“When we start to see bricks and mortar businesses accepting Bitcoin, it means that there’s a sort of cultural acceptance of alternative forms of payment,” explains Dushenski.
Rick Rosboro is a vendor at the City Market downtown. He started accepting the digital currency about one month ago.
“It’s a little bit scary because you don’t know what’s going to happen with Bitcoin. Is it going to become more and more and more popular and therefore more valuable or will it be shut down by the banks and the government?” he asks.
Still, Rosboro believes it’s worth the risk.
“I think it’s worthwhile… We need to have some change on this planet in the way money is dealt with, in a way that’s fair.”
The digital currency can be bought and sold for traditional money.
“Bitcoin just takes the next step and says ‘let’s be 100 per cent digital,’” explains Dushenski.
Bitcoin was introduced as open source software in 2009. Since then, the peer-to-peer payment system has seen strong growth.
In 2009, one bitcoin was worth $0.0007. In Feb. 2013, it was worth about $27. In Feb. 2014, it was trading close to $800. However, like the Canadian dollar, it fluctuates.
“Only in the last year has it started to achieve that critical mass, where it’s starting to get into the public sphere enough that people are talking about it more regularly and communities are starting to develop in every city in the world around Bitcoin,” says Dushenski.
Within one month or so, he says Edmonton will have four Bitcoin kiosks or ATMs installed, which is more than anywhere else in the world.
“Bitcoin is going to be increasingly adopted by merchants and it’s going to be easier and easier to get and to use,” he predicts.
Edmonton’s Remedy Café has been accepting bitcoins as payment for some time. Last March, a man in Crowsnest Pass put his $400,000 home on the market in exchange for bitcoins.
“There is an increasing appreciation, I think, at all levels of our society, whether it’s government or private, that Bitcoin has disruptive potential, and there’s a lot of opportunity that comes with that,” says Dushenski. “Of course, there’s some risks as well.”
Not all governments are welcoming the online currency. China restricts Bitcoin exchange for local currency, and the European Banking Authority has said Bitcoin lacks consumer protections.
In its 2014 budget, the federal government outlined plans to bring virtual currencies under the provisions of the anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing regulations.
With files from Shannon Greer, Global News