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Paying my Bill and Yearning For Blockchain

So, I was paying my Verizon cable bill on Saturday 1/20, a few days before the 1/23 deadline. I filled out the payment information and clicked submit only to realize I wanted to use another card. Well, there was an option to cancel, so I did, thinking I will then use the correct one to pay. 

Guess what, its 1/23 and the system has not updated the fact that I cancelled the payment. Actually, the payment history section recognized I canceled, but the Pay Bill page thinks I already paid. 

When I tried to pay the bill with the right credit card, I was not able to because the system is still processing the cancelled bill - a situation that can be avoided on the Blockchain infrastructure. 

I then went on their chat, which was surprisingly responsive. After 15 minutes of checking identity and understanding the situation, they essentially recommended that I wait until 1/25 when the process is cleared.

While this particular inquiry was relatively brief and pain-free, I still felt like it was a waste of time! 

Plus, the chat assistant told me to call another number to postpone the deadline if I want, or go into the Verizon store to pay for it. 

I decided to wait and not waste more time on this matter. It's a fast paced world and ain't nobody got time for that!

So what does this have to do with blockchain?

Well, if this bill was done on a blockchain via a smartcontract structure, it would have been done. I would be able to click cancel, and the transaction would be reversed. I would then use another card and process that payment within the hour, not 5 days later! 

Meanwhile, Verizon can maintain a smaller customer service line at least in the billing department because the process would be so much more efficient and transparent to the customer. 

Does this have to be Decentralized though?

A good question is always - does decentralization add any value to this process?

Billing being in a decentralized or a distributed system means the process is always validated by nodes outside of the Verizon and Chase banking system. (Chase bank would have to be using blockchain as well).

At the moment, all billing systems are "centralized" so there is an individual authority that validates all the transactions i.e. Chase. 

No individuals from these organizations can snoop your credit card information. So in terms of security, yes decentralization does remove a required layer of trust from the process.

In fact, the credit card as we know it is a security joke. When these services are encrypted and put on the blockchain, the visible part of the card "public key" will be useless to criminals. 

Also, there will be no dispute on whether or not someone paid x-amount on y-date. So, the blockchain not only improves security, it improves transparency because the transaction detail is broadcast on all the nodes and is immutable. (If this system is centralized, someone in Chase or Verizon can change the data on their system). In truly decentralized and distributed systems, more than half of the nodes have to act maliciously. 

So the answer is a resounding YES, especially if different systems are all decentralized. But in order for systems to be truly decentralized, people around the world will have to join this movement. If most people still rather depend on centralized systems, the blockchain will not have enough nodes to offer security. Let's say only 10 nodes exist. It is not hard to imagine 6 people colluding. A 10 million node network on the other hand is virtually incorruptible. 

Now I know there will be unintended consequences, as with any new technology. But I hope we all consider the benefits of decentralized systems and the blockchain technology and continue to get educated on the tech. 

It took me months to scratch the surface of understanding what this technology offers. Now, I see it's potential applications everywhere. As Andreas Antonopoulos said,  "the cat is out of the bag and we can't put it back in." Now, it's time we deal with it and realize its full potential. 

This was a great talk by Andreas. Too bad the title is such a clickbait - he does offerf a lot of perspective on bitcoin and blockchain.

 

 

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