Sunday, November 13, 2011

How Urban Infrastructure in France Allowed me to Make Economically Efficient Lifestyle Changes

After a rough transition settling down in France, I find myself finally able to enjoy again some fine HBO productions. And the process of accessing them involved significant technological and lifestyle changes. First, following the same parsimonious principles that led us to get rid of car ownership in our household (we rent when needed, and this is proving to be a highly profitable move), we chose to not have a large TV set and instead to use movie theaters and computers for video entertainment. This was another winning strategy: we've been enjoying more time out, and the reduction of personal clutter and waste at home is really significant.

What is more interesting however is how French urban infrastructure allowed me to engage in these lifestyle changes very efficiently. Not just because of generally good mass transportation systems, but also because of the way digital content is distributed in the country. My entire digital subscription comes from Orange, an obvious choice since it broadcasts most HBO series in France, besides offering an even better lineup of movies than HBO does. It offers me high-speed urban ADSL (much faster than the ADSL service that I had in the rural-like conditions of Minnesota), and in some buildings the system is being upgraded to jaw-dropping fast optical fiber.

Through the ADSL line I get three services together: high-speed Internet, unlimited domestic and international phone calls, and digital video subscription (live and on demand based on the Netflix unlimited downloads model). The three services together, including content from HBO and other English and Portuguese language channels, cost me only about US$79. I'm paying less than half the value that I was paying for lower service in the US, and don't forget that the euro is overappreciated despite the "euro crisis" chattering.

But the most important benefit is the flexibility that the service offers me. The on-demand content is excellent and we can watch it in our computers and Android phones (Apple devices not allowed - Apple policy is to enslave its users to the iTunes Shop). It means that I can for example watch the latest episode of "Boardwalk Empire" on my high-def Android screen using high-quality in-ear headphones while I ride the subway back home. By the way, I'll later post on "Boardwalk Empire" and "Game of Thrones." For now I'll just say that HBO did it again with both series.

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