By Cliff Summerhill, Special for Wrangler News
In a sign of the ever‐changing technological times we live in, Chandler has implemented the ability for residents to pay their utility bills using cryptocurrency.
“We made an assumption that with so many tech companies within the city boundaries, their employees may delve into cryptocurrency with their strong technical skills,” said Dawn Lang, Chandler deputy city manager and chief financial officer. “So, we wanted to be sensitive to that.”
Chandler is home to some of the largest tech companies in the U.S., including Intel, NXP Semiconductors and Microchip Technology. According to the city, there are more than 26,000 employees among 268 tech companies within Chandler’s boundaries.
Chandler joins a handful of municipalities across the country that accept cryptocurrency as payment for city services.
As of February, Colorado was the first state to accept virtual currency for state‐level fees and charges.
“It’s about customer service for our residents,” Councilmember Mark Stewart said. “Digital currency and blockchain is advancing quickly, and as the ‘Community of Innovation,’ we feel it is important to be on the forefront of this technology and offer it to our residents as a payment method for utility payments and other fees.”
Residents must have a PayPal account with Bitcoin, Litecoin or Ethereum linked to their virtual wallet in order to use the service. Those who use PayPal for payments easily can select cryptocurrency as payment method when checking out online.
Learn more on the city’s website: chandleraz.gov/utilityservices.
One of Chandler’s strategic goals is rooted in its continued development of technology, leading then‐vice mayor Stewart to establish a $5,000 budget amendment to research how the city could incorporate cryptocurrency for city residents.
Upon completion of the research, the city found itself not wanting to invest in cryptocurrency because the current market is too volatile to pursue investments. However, it challenged its third‐party payment vendor, Invoice Cloud, to find a way to incorporate cryptocurrency as a method of payment.
The challenge resulted in the partnership with PayPal.
“PayPal takes on the risk and does the market conversion, then simply sends the City of Chandler the cash payment for the utility, thereby eliminating any market volatility risk for Chandler,” Lang said.
While Chandler is starting with utility‐bill payments, it hopes to expand to other services.
The city is working with PayPal to parse out cryptocurrency payments from other PayPal Checkout payments, which can include a bank account or credit card, to gauge the program’s use and effectiveness.
Cryptocurrency is simply a virtual currency that is exclusively digital, encrypted and decentralized, according to Forbes. There is no central authority for cryptocurrency, meaning its value and management is owned by its online users. The lack of regulation and authority makes for a volatile and uneasy market for those unacquainted with it.
“The easiest way to explain it is that it’s a virtual form of currency and it is priced based on the market at that time,” Lang said. “It’s managed through a secure, virtual wallet.”
Unlike physical currency, such as the U.S. dollar, the value of cryptocurrency changes constantly, kind of likes stocks traded on Wall Street, but with even more risk.
There are several types of cryptocurrencies — more than 18,000 around the world as of April. Among the most popular are Bitcoin, Litecoin or Ethereum. Those are the only ones accepted by Chandler for utility bills.
As for the city’s future in cryptocurrency investments, Lang said, “Anything is possible in the world of technology and innovation. As use of cryptocurrency becomes more normal, and policies and procedures and laws are set up, anything is possible.”