Dish Network announced on Thursday that it will begin accepting Bitcoins for payment, the largest company to do so to date. Dish said it was working with Coinbase's Instant Exchange service for Bitcoin payments, a service that instantly converts Bitcoins to dollars, allowing Dish to avoid dealing with the sometimes volatile price of the cryptocurrency.
Bitcoins have been gaining steam in the commercial markets, with a few large companies such as Overstock.com, TigerDirect, Microsoft's Bing search engine, Square Market, and now Dish Network joining a small fleet of mom and pop stores and online services such as Gyft accepting it. You can even play online poker with Bitcoins at sites like SealsWithClubs, which I reviewed last December.
Companies like BitPay and Coinbase facilitate merchants to accept Bitcoins. As noted above, services like Instant Exchange protect merchants from Bitcoin's volatility and prevent merchants from having to manage their own Bitcoin wallets.
At the same time, these services also add constant sell-side pressure on the price of Bitcoin because every transaction is immediately traded. It's one step removed from a pure Bitcoin transactional chain, and is not the same as companies that wish to collect and possibly conduct their own Bitcoin transactions.
At this stage in Bitcoin's history, however, these incremental steps are important ones for Bitcoin to become a functional currency.
Dish said that the Bitcoin payment option will be available for customers choosing to make one-time payments on mydish.com starting in the third quarter.