Dish Network is tuning in to Bitcoin to become the first major television service provider to allow customers to pay their bills with the cryptocurrency.
In announcing the news Thursday, Dish proclaimed that it is the largest company yet to accept bitcoins as it gets ready for customers to start settling their tabs with the digital currency in the third quarter of 2014. Bitcoin won't replace traditional credit or debit cards or the use of bank accounts to make payments, Dish added. It can only be used on one-time payments.
Bitcoin has slowly marched towards legitimacy, thanks to its worldwide popularity. At its height in the last several months, a single bitcoin was worth more than $1,000. As of this writing, Bitcoin's conversion rate comes in at around $568.
The technology behind Bitcoin is complex, but its goal quite simple: to eliminate the chances of someone being able to determine who is actually transacting in the currency. That anonymity has made Bitcoin somewhat of a non-starter for major companies fearing that they won't be able to identify the individuals actually making payments. Dish's support for the currency, however, gives it yet another legitimacy boost.
The cryptocurrency was hit hard earlier this year when the Mt. Gox exchange, the largest Bitcoin exchange in the world at that time, was hacked, leaving hundreds of millions of dollars unaccounted for and effectively stolen by hackers who cannot be identified. The Mt. Gox exchange has since been shuttered, but a movement by affected users and equity firms is attempting to bring it back.
That incident, along with Bitcoin's inherent anonymity, has caught the eye of governments around the world. Many companies have taken a wait-and-see approach as they allow transactions, while others have called for greater regulation. China has perhaps been the most active in its regulation of Bitcoin, saying that it may be used only by individuals and not by banks.
Dish has partnered with Coinbase to process customer payments. According to the company, Dish is using Coinbase's Instant Exchange to immediately convert Bitcoin payments to US dollars at the moment of the transaction.
CNET has contacted Dish for additional comment on the Bitcoin move. We will update this story when we have more information.