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Bitcoin Market Dominance Rises, Transaction Fees Fall

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The ratio of Bitcoin’s market dominance compared to all other digital currencies has generally getting smaller since early 2017. This period can be considered the ‘big bang’ for cryptocurrencies, when they literally all exploded onto the scene and inflated into the virtual universe. Over the past week however Bitcoin’s dominance has picked up and its transaction fees have fallen.

Over the first half of 2017 Bitcoin’s market share plummeted from almost 90% to around 37%. This was largely at the expense of Ethereum which skyrocketed in price from around $10 to over $400 during the same period. Other altcoins such as Ripple’s XRP also chomped away at the Bitcoin behemoth as the crypto train gathered momentum. The latter half of 2017 saw Bitcoin steadily rise back up to a high of 64% market dominance in early December as traders soon realized that they needed BTC to buy altcoins.

Big Drop For Bitcoin

As crypto mania reached a crescendo just after New Year Bitcoin found itself in free-fall again dropping by 50% to a low of 34% market dominance. Smaller altcoins such as Verge, Tron, and Cardano were being shilled and pumped causing millions of dollars to flow away from BTC and into them boosting their market capacities into the billions. The party did not last long and those that shot up so rapidly fell the hardest. Everything was sucked into the virtual vortex and the crypto markets shed 66% from $830 billion down to a low of $280 billion in just one month from January 7 to February 6.

In the past week however Bitcoin’s market dominance has seen a turn around and it is reclaiming some of its lost share. It has regained 14% from 34% on Feb 10 to just over 39% today, and it continues to climb as many of the altcoins carry on bleeding. Those that were seeking a quick buck are likely to have sold in a panic as markets fell, while those with true belief in blockchain technology and the projects they have invested in will be hodling for the future.

Chart: Coinmarketcap

Usage and Transaction Fees at a Low

While Bitcoin approaches 40% market share again its actual usage has fallen to the lowest point in six months. Costs to send Bitcoin became unfeasible during its peak in December when they were as high as $35. This caused many to switch to more cost efficient alternatives such as Ethereum, Litecoin and even Bitcoin Cash.

With fewer people using Bitcoin its transaction fees have dropped back to an 18 month low yesterday. This means that a standard transaction of six blocks will cost as little as 20 cents with an average fee being around 50 cents according to analytics websites. Bitcoin transaction fees have not been this low since before the crypto boom in March last year.

These low fees only apply for peer-to-peer transactions however as exchanges set their own fees and commissions which are usually higher. Segwit adoption and Lightning Network implementation could help to bring Bitcoin back to the digital currency of choice it was developed to be in the first place.

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UK MPs to Study Bitcoin Benefits Despite Carney’s Dismissal

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British MPs will participate in a committee to study the risks and benefits of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency despite Bank of England Governor Mark Carney writing it all off as a failure.

UK Makes First Moves Toward Regulation

A cross-party Treasury select committee of members of parliament announced on Thursday that they would launch an inquiry into digital currency as well as examine the underlying blockchain distributed ledger technology that powers it.

This seemingly late move is prompted by last years investing craze that drove the value of Bitcoin and some other digital currencies to all-time highs and the subsequent market correction that saw the prices plummet over a few days time.

Chair of the committee Nicky Morgan said the committee will study the impact of cryptocurrency on personal investors as well as financial institutions in the UK. The goal is to find the right balance between regulation to ensure investor protection without stifling business that may grow from both cryptocurrency and the blockchain technology.

The committee of lawmakers will take evidence from a range of experts in the field to inform their recommendations which it will then submit to the government.

People are becoming increasingly aware of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, but they may not be aware that they are currently unregulated in the UK, and that there is no protection for individual investors,” Nicky Morgan, chair of the Treasury Committee, said.

Bank of England at Cross Purposes on Blockchain

Meanwhile, the Bank of England Governor Mark Carney continues his firm anti-crypto stance saying on Monday that Bitcoin “has pretty much failed” as a currency.

“It has pretty much failed thus far on … the traditional aspects of money. It is not a store of value because it is all over the map. Nobody uses it as a medium of exchange,”

Carney said, according to Reuters.

That despite the fact that the BoE is one of many central banking institutions in Europe currently examining blockchain technology as a way to distribute and track money in the public sector.

The treasury committee has created this set of key questions in order to form their recommendation.

  • Are digital currencies ultimately capable of replacing traditional means of payment?
  • To what extent could digital currencies disrupt the economy and the workings of the public sector?
  • What risks and benefits could digital currencies generate for consumers, businesses, and governments?
  • Could regulation benefit digital currency start-ups by improving consumer trust?
  • How are governments and regulators in other countries approaching digital currencies and what lessons can the UK learn from overseas?

There is no deadline set for the committee’s findings to be submitted to the treasury.

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BitFunder Founder Charged by SEC for Stealing $61 Million Worth of Bitcoin

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Today, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) brought charges against Jon E. Montroll and his exchange BitFunder for operating an unregistered securities exchange and defrauding users. On top of that, the agency also charged the operator — Montroll — with making false and misleading statements in connection with an unregistered offering of securities. BitFunder was a platform that permitted users to buy and sell virtual “shares” of various digital currency-related enterprises in exchange for Bitcoin.

“We allege that BitFunder operated unlawfully as an unregistered securities exchange.  Platforms that engage in the activity of a national securities exchange, regardless of whether that activity involves digital assets, tokens, or coins, must register with the SEC or operate pursuant to an exemption.  We will continue to focus on these types of platforms to protect investors and ensure compliance with the securities laws,” said Marc Berger, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office.

The SEC’s complaint, filed in federal district court in Manhattan, charges Montroll and BitFunder with violations of the anti-fraud and registration provisions of the federal securities laws. The complaint seeks permanent injunctions and disgorgement plus interest and penalties. 

The agency alleges Montroll operated BitFunder as an unregistered online securities exchange and defrauded exchange users by misappropriating their Bitcoin, and also for failing to disclose a cyberattack on BitFunder’s system that resulted in the theft of more than 6,000 Bitcoin. Going off the price of Bitcoin today, that’s about $61,800,000.

“As alleged in the complaint, Montroll defrauded exchange users by misappropriating their bitcoins and failing to disclose a cyberattack on the exchange’s system and the resulting bitcoin theft.  We will continue to vigorously police conduct involving distributed ledger technology and ensure that bad actors who commit fraud in this space are held accountable,” said Lara S. Mehraban, Associate Regional Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office.

Unfortunately for Montroll, his legal troubles don’t stop with the SEC: Also today, in a parallel criminal case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York filed a complaint against him for perjury and obstruction of justice during the SEC’s investigation. This implies that Montroll, in some way, must have not fully cooperated with the SEC during the agency’s investigation.

This case comes as the SEC is cracking down on other companies and individuals it believes are partaking in shady business within the crypto-space. In January of this year, the agency advised people to “exercise caution” with Bitcoin and other digital currencies.

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Iran: Central Bank Doesn’t Recognize Cryptocurrencies but Plans to Create Its Own

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Late last year, it was reported that the Iranian government was interested in utilizing Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a way of bypassing economic sanctions levied against the country. But the government has apparently changed its mind: Today, the Central Bank of Iran announced that it has never recognized Bitcoin as an official currency and conducts no transactions in it or other cryptocurrencies.

According to Iran Front Page, the country’s central bank has denied ever recognizing Bitcoin as an official currency, along with the idea that it was actively facilitating Bitcoin transactions. The bank also warned Iranian citizens about the high risks of making investments in the potentially volatile market, saying that there’s a chance they “may lose their financial assets.” Moving ahead, the organization is cooperating with other institutions to develop mechanisms to control and prevent the use of digital currencies in the country. The bank put it as follows:

“The wild fluctuations of the digital currencies along with competitive business activities underway via network marketing and pyramid scheme have made the market of these currencies highly unreliable and risky,”

Countries Creating Their Own Coins

Despite all the FUD that accompanies announcements such as these, there are some positive developments. Iran’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi also declared today that Iran’s Post Bank is working on a locally developed cryptocurrency, which will need to be tested by the ICT. It’s unclear exactly how far into research or development the bank is in creating this new coin.

Iran would not be the first country to develop its own digital currency as a way of bypassing financial blockades. Just yesterday Venezuela launched its new coin, the Petro, which is backed by the South American country’s oil reserves.

Late last week, Europe’s newest digital currency, the Korona — which runs on the Lightning Network and is being touted as more stable, safer, and cheaper to use than its competitors — was launched in Budapest, Hungary. Jean-Marc Stiegemeier, Korona’s CEO, is optimistic about the future of the crypto-industry:

“Over the next few years we are going to see a revolution in the banking sector,” Stiegemeier, said. “Within ten years cryptocurrency will be used and accepted worldwide.”

Although sanctions on Iran are not as heavy as they were before the 2015 nuclear deal with the West, the country is still, for the most part, cut off from major international payment networks like Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal. As is the case in other parts of the world, such as Africa, this economic stalemate is making decentralized payment methods like Bitcoin more and more appealing.

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New Jersey High School Offering Lessons In Cryptocurrency and Blockchain

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Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains, New Jersey is teaching its students about cryptocurrencies. Mr. Tim Breza’s Business and Personal Finance Class is the focus of a CNBC documentary that is showcasing how cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and associated blockchain technologies are being introduced and taught in high school and college classrooms.

Mr. Breza, a 28-year-old history and financial literacy teacher, first considered adding cryptocurrencies to his Business and Personal Finance class at the beginning of this school year after a few students approached him in September and October. The students were interested in learning more about the industry and began asking him what he knew about Bitcoin and other digital currencies.

“If one student’s talking about it, many of them are talking about it,” Breza said. “So I figured we needed to include it.”

Juniors and seniors are eligible to take his elective course, in which students learn about budgeting, credit cards, taxes, investing, entrepreneurship, and how to create business plans. After receiving approval, Breza has added a section on cryptocurrencies — focusing on the history of cryptography and the applications of blockchain technology.

“I’ve very excited that the students and Union Catholic is being exposed to this… and that the UC administration supported teaching this to our students,’’ said Breza. “Not too many schools are even thinking about teaching about cryptocurrency. We’re not teaching it in the sense that you have to invest it, we are just giving the facts of it. Blockchain is the key to all of this. That’s the revolutionary piece to it.’’

What do the students think?

Despite Breza’s assertion that the class is not teaching about cryptocurrencies from an investing standpoint, some students have chosen to do their own research. Junior Max Berg, for example, chose to buy Bitcoin last year. When the digital currency hit $19,000 in December, he cashed out, using his profits as seed money to start a retail business — buying Supreme clothes and accessories and selling them on to his peers.

“UC is always on the edge of new technology with our laptops and other things, so this is just that next step of teaching what the future of investments are going to be,’’ said Berg. “It’s been a hobby of mine for years now, and it’s cool to see how big it has gotten and that the school is open to teaching about is great.’’

Another student in the class, senior Thomas Monahan, believes his progressive teachers are to thank for introducing the high schoolers to the new technology:

“The teachers and administrators at Union Catholic always find ways to give us an edge and help us learn and make us better than other high schools,’’ said Monahan. “They teach us valuable things about life things that will help us in the future.”

While this subject may be new to high schools, it’s already a popular topic at universities across the country — and the job market for the crypto-space is booming, too.  LinkedIn says there are now 28 times as many people citing “cryptocurrency” skills on their profiles and 5.5 times as many people with “Bitcoin” skills than there were just five years ago.

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