Monday, August 23, 2010

Re-Attaching the Cord

I've moved back to Chicago, to a new apartment, and have completely realigned my telecom portfolio.

That is to say, I've gone back to the cable companies, and am once again a TV service subscriber.

I was content to live in my apartment, relying on a fast internet connection, a netflix subscription, and a Roku streaming box. I had more than enough content.

Then I moved in with my fiancee, and discovered that if I recommended an option that left her without easy access to Say Yes to the Dress and several cities worth of Real Housewives, I would soon find myself fitted with a new pair cement shoes at the bottom of Lake Michigan.

OK, so cable it is. Welcome back into my life, Comcast. I'm assuming you've changed and are now easy to deal with, right?

What's more, we no longer subscribe to internet service.

Yes, you read that right. Me, exhibit A for any prosecution of Internet addiction, an internet subscriber no more.

What changed...did I find Jesus? (or, if not Jesus, an anti-technology version of Jesus, a Unabomber Jesus I guess)

Of course not, don't be ridiculous. We have free Wi-Fi in the building.

But the Wi-Fi has left me in something of a conundrum.

The service is adequate for basic internet. Web surfing and some light video (short clips on YouTube), that stuff's ok, but forget about anything consistent. Let's just say, if your life depended on your internet connection (think Obama receiving national security information, or me conducting my fantasy football draft), you definitely can't rely on it.

So what's an internet addict to do? Do I subscribe to a plan? Add to my already significant Comcast bill?

It's not an easy decision, in part because I love using my Roku box, and not having an internet connection turns it into a pretty lousy accessory.

The Roku allows me to stream Netflix, watch, YouTube, and a whole bunch of other hyper-specific and relatively useless channels.

Clearly, a more thorough analysis is required.

Reasons I would like Internet:

- Netflix streaming: For $9/month, I have access to an increasingly large library of on-demand content. Some people complain that it doesn't have the most recent movies. This is true. However, it's got tons of movies that I actually want to see and TV shows I'll always watch (e.g., Arrested Development, South Park)

- For $100+, I can watch the Phillies on my big screen. Of course, Comcast has the Extra Innings package, which I think is more expensive, but quite similar. Plus, my 2010 season pass is already paid for. A sunk cost if ever there was one.

- Future Channel expansion on Roku: This is one of the more tantalizing areas. Roku continues to add channels, both officially and unofficially. Of course, they never comment on what's coming. What would be great is an NFL channel, or an NHL channel. But since this is the real world, the NFL doesn't seem willing to give up on the stupid DirecTV Sunday Ticket monopoly, and the NHL might still be too stupid to do something that would allow MORE people to watch their sport. So really, there might not be a lot here.

- Worry-free internet connections: A dedicated line would reduce frustration of disconnection/slow connections over this freaking building's Wi-Fi. That's definitely worth something, particularly if it prevents me from throwing my laptop against a wall.

But really, is that list so compelling? For an extra $40+ a month? Heck, even for $20/month?

Sadly, I don't think so. My rational MBA brain is screaming, 'That's a terrible investment! In no way is it NPV positive! (assuming the value I derive from the service as equivalent to cash inflows)

I may also put a hold on Netflix, because one DVD at a time isn't fantastic, and I can't get the streaming that I enjoy, so why waste $100+/year?

So it looks like the decision is solid. I've re-attached my cable TV cord (but still disconnected the cable internet technically, I'm still a cord cutter!)

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