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Since the people who could use the information Minhaj discussed in the episode are the same ones who don’t have internet access, Minhaj announced that the episode would be available for DVD delivery and also free to watch on YouTube.
“The internet is an essential utility,” Minhaj said. “It’s like electricity or water … We rely on the internet in critical ways you may not realize.”
Minhaj said nearly 3 million kids across the country have trouble doing their homework because they don’t have WiFi. Some will even go to their local McDonald’s to use the internet because they don’t have internet access at home.
The problem is rooted in internet service providers that don’t have any incentive to provide service to rural areas. Minhaj used Comcast as an example.
“One of the reasons Comcast doesn’t provide good internet to a lot of areas is because it hurts their bottom line,” Minhaj said. “Even in the places that Comcast does cover, they have no incentive to provide better service because they face virtually no competition.”
Minhaj explained how Comcast and Charter Communications, which owns Spectrum, have divided the country up in coverage maps that don’t overlap.
“It’s like gerrymandering, except white people get fucked over too,” Minhaj said. “In theory, the government should have a problem with cable companies carving up the U.S., but Comcast spends so much on lobbying that they say disclosing all of it is too hard.”
Minhaj said there are even disparities over just how many people are without internet access. The government reported that 21 million Americans don’t have high-speed internet, while a private Microsoft study found that number to be closer to 163 million.
“The ironic thing is this–we’re doing this episode and it’s great, but the people who are being screwed over by this and by the telecom industry probably can’t even watch this episode,” Minhaj said. “This show only exists on the internet … Netflix still has a DVD service. I don’t know how or why, but they do … so we decided to put this episode of Patriot Act on DVD so you can rent it from Netflix.”
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Katie Balevic is an editorial intern at the Daily Dot where she enjoys covering social justice issues and politics. Her previous work has appeared in the Daily Texan, the Victoria Advocate, and the Houston Defender.