Porn exec touts net neutrality in rare call for regulation

Smut sellers normally prefer that the government stay far away from their business. But when it comes to how the FCC oversees the internet, the adult industry says proposed net neutrality rules are needed to ensure internet providers don’t start assigning moral value to web traffic.

“One gigabyte of data is one gigabyte of data, whether it’s House of Cards or,” Stuart Lawley, a web tycoon who operates domains like .porn and .sex, told me on the phone. “What the consumers is paying for is the big pipe, and the speed of the pipe and quality of data that comes down that pipe.”

Lawley fears porn sites are low-hanging fruit for ISPs that want to charge websites a toll in exchange for not throttling their data streams, and that large purveyors like Mindgeek (which runs sites like RedTube and Pornhub) would be an easy target.

The porn industry has few friends in Congress but Lawley said that, in the case of net neutrality, larger principles are at stake.

He pointed out that ISPs could use domain suffixes as a source of discrimination when delivering web traffic — and not just pornographic ones like .sex. Without net neutrality rules, he said an ISP could degrade the traffic of sites that suggest a religious affiliation: “You could have ISPs run by certain people who have certain racial or religious views who might slow Jewish websites.”

As such, Lawley said he is in favor of the proposed rules that the FCC will vote on this week, which will bar ISPs from giving special treatment to some sites.

The FCC also plans to invoke new legal authority to oversee so-called interconnection fees, or tolls of the sort Lawley fears ISPs will extract from his industry.

These fees became an issue when Verizon and Comcast imposed them on Netflix, leading the video company to blast them as a form of extortion.

Adult-related websites, which account for five on an Alexa list of the top 100 most-visited sites in 2014, have yet to complain publicly about similar practices. But the site Pornhub participated in an “internet slowdown day” last year in which numerous mainstream sites, including Reddit and Etsy, brought the issue of net neutrality to the public’s attention.