The US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has set 18th November as the date for its hearing into bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
US Senator Tom Carper, chairman of the committee, said last week that the aim of the hearing, titled 'Beyond Silk Road: potential risks, threats, and promises of virtual currencies', is to "dig into what a whole-government approach to this new and unique technology may look like”.
The hearing will feature two separate panels, one representing US law enforcement agencies and another representing bitcoin, extolling the virtues of digital currencies.
The US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs is also soon to hold a hearing about bitcoin, although the exact date of this is yet to be made public.
Several commenters on the Bitcoin Talk forum questioned the need for bitcoin community cooperation with government and the willingness to offer up information on bitcoin's inner workings.
Others stressed that, while bitcoin itself is decentralized and independent, to function in the real-world economy it also needs to integrate with widely-used (and regulated) infrastructures and fiat currencies.
The Bitcoin Foundation's law and policy committee chair Mike Hearn wrote:
"There are many powerful institutions in our world run by people that simply don't or won't take part in forums like Bitcoin Talk, mailing lists and so on. The way they operate is by holding meetings, conferences and hearings like this one. The foundation not only funds development but acts as a bridge between these two very different worlds."
The US Senate has shown an interest in bitcoin for some time now, having begun its inquiry in early August. US authorities have so far adopted a neutral approach to cryptocurrencies, with a letter from Homeland Security stating:
"As with all emerging technologies, the federal government must make sure that potential threats and risks are dealt with swiftly; however, we must also ensure that rash or uninformed actions don’t stifle a potentially valuable technology."
Those speaking at the hearing next week on behalf of bitcoin will try their best to ensure the government realises the many benefits and opportunities digital currency offers while arguing against any protestations that it is damaging to society.
Check back this week for further updates on this story.
Story co-authored by Emily Spaven and Jon Southurst