Are you ready to pay for porn?

If Net Neutrality is repealed, our internet service providers will have the power to charge us for porn and we aren’t prepared for the consequences.

Homer Simpson tried to be an internet service provider once.

The FCC recently introduced a plan to repeal Net Neutrality. Depending on who you’re reading about what that entails, there are theories of meticulously controlled media exploiting consumers through upcharges and dismissive claims of free market giving consumers advantages.

The latter is debunked when rural markets, who often only have single providers of any utility, are considered — there is no market competition in rural markets. If you’re conservative and believe that there is a liberal bias in media and happen to live in a rural area, this ought to be your worst nightmare. It conjures up scenarios of the Chinese government banning Google or Orwellian nightmares.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s consider just one product we take for granted online: porn.

Your grandma probably watches porn

Porn may not seem like a big deal compared to all the possible ways your internet use can be controlled, but let’s back up and talk about the volume and ubiquity of porn.

Today most porn is watched on a cell phone. You could be huddled in the dark next to your snoring, unsuspecting partner watching big beautiful geriatric women dominate an immobilized party with a Batman™ theme using fidget spinners. You could be on a plane, boat, work retreat, or in a confessional with your priest and watch something entirely uncouth for me to describe. Not only would it be so convenient that it would seem personally designed for your lifestyle, but it’s free. Porn is argued to comprise 37% of the data on the internet and some saying a conservative 30%.

A monthly cable bill is an American tradition along with all the advertising that bores you. Porn is so highly consumed, and unlike cable, none of it is interrupted by ads. Remember when cable was paid for and promised to be ad-free? The year was 1981.

Are you ready to talk numbers?

I’m going to give you a lot of numbers. This is galaxy astrophysics level math — an extraordinary volume and so many zeros. The best way I can think of is to talk about it in terms of a show we’ll all gladly talk about. Even if you hate the show, it’s hard to a be a person in the United States and have no knowledge of Game of Thrones.

In 2012, YouPorn boasts 29 petabytes of streaming a month. A petabyte is also known as 1,000,000 gigabytes.

For perspective, remember when HBO was hacked during August 2017? That paltry 1.5 terabytes was assumed to be the biggest hack yet of a production company. This was something claimed by Wired, CNBC, Variety, NYTimes, and many more.

What if the hackers leaked an entire episode! An entire episode of Game of Thrones is about 3.5GBs — a mere 0.0035 of the data stolen — and 10 of those episodes makes up an entire season.

Let’s talk in terms of the entire series of Game of Thrones, so every episode of every season. The amount of video YouPorn streams in a month is like watching every single episode of Game of Thrones in a row 118,367 times. For a single individual to watch that much of Game of Thrones, it would take over 945 years. That’s how much 29 petabytes is relative to Game of Thrones. I never liked the show that much, did you?

YouPorn is just 1 out of a conservatively estimated 700MM porn sites. To put it in perspective, everyone in the US could own two porn sites which is believable considering the US owns 3 out of 5 porn sites in the world. Personally, I’m not going to imagine every one of my coworkers owning at least 2 porn sites, but it’s entirely possible.

In 2017, YouPorn is second to PornHub, the number one porn website, and they boast an impressive 259 petabytes a month from 2016. That’s 6 terabytes a minute. That’s so much porn and your brain can’t even store a tenth of it — the brain’s capacity is a paltry 2.5 petabytes.

I tried to make an infographic, but it didn’t fit on my screen even at half an episode. For one hour of streaming, 1 pixel would represent an episode of Game of Thrones at 3.5GBs compared to 5,944 pixels of 25,920,000GBs on PornHub.com.

Nobody is paying for all that porn

This is all incredibly impressive and huge on its own. Its economic impact is unquestionably influential in the US. What’s even more startlingly, and will likely shock you less, is only 4% of people pay for it. Have you paid for porn? Many of us have been spoiled by torrents, streaming sites, and pirating to get free content. Arrgggghhh matey!

According to research from The Economist in 2015, the porn industry has consolidated. What was 200 major production studios downsized to 20 production studios. Larger studios bought out the independent and smaller houses. A single man in 2012 owned the top ten porn aggregators. He offered to buy out a major French website owner for $120MM and was laughed away — the owner said he was going to go play Diablo II. Porn used to be expensive, back when we had to pay, but with the proliferation of the internet, porn like Hollywood had to change its revenue model. People want free content online.

Back when we paid for porn, pirating was limited. You could record it from pay-per-view on cable. You could go to a video rental store and awkwardly hand over your membership card to someone who avoided your eye contact. You could buy video tapes. People saw your name on your credit card. People knew your home address so they could mail you late fees. The cable company knew you were watching Sperminator 2 for the fourth time. In the end, most people paid for porn.

You’ll have to pay and be identified by your porn habits

How your internet provider can begin filtering or throttling content.

If Net Neutrality is repealed, you’ll more than likely have to pay for porn again. Net Neutrality prevents an internet service provider from charging you based on what you’re looking at, changing speeds based on what you’re looking at, or blocking what you look at all together. Ending porn isn’t very profitable for them. Why not simply hold your desires hostage till the ransom is paid?

PornHub was kind enough to reveal what we’re looking for in porn. The IT department back at my alma mater was able to decipher what types of porn and how much was being consumed at any time on the school network. Your credit score is influenced by how reliably you pay your cable bill. If an internet provider can bill you for content, they’re going to create a line item for it. In some database of billing history will be your name, your address, and your method of payment tied to what you watched. Let me be clear, I’m saying you can be identified and so can your porn.

PornHub’s statistics during the 2016 Republican national convention.

Is that a risk you’re willing to take? Are your closeted relatives ready for their cable company to put “Daddy Diaper Time” on a billing statement? Is that white supremacist man ready to find out his wife was watching “big black dick” and “orgy”? Is that politician who soapboxes family values ok with being outed for his furry homosexuality by a gang of Russian teen hackers because he watched porn during a Republican convention?

Ashley Madison, a dating website for anonymous people, was hacked and the identities of its members released. The hackers were trying to expose people cheating on their marriages and inadvertently outed and endangered gay people in countries where gay sex is punishable by death. It’s not an outlandish or absurd thing to imagine hackers pilfering the sexual habits of a cable company’s customers — it’s happened before. We’re a private species that would rather our coworkers, friends, relatives, and society at large be unaware of our sexual proclivities.

If Net Neutrality is repealed, you’ll be looking at a big change. Pirating something strictly monitored by your internet provider is disastrous for torrenting and streaming — we’d need to get physical. I can tell you about how a friend’s older brother would use a camcorder to record porn he found in his dad’s stash and sell the terrible copies to kids in the neighborhood, but that wasn’t free. Someone will firstly have to pay for the porn and then be willing to give it away for free. Some people would be willing to do that, but how would it be distributed? Thumb drives? CDs? DVDs? Based on our habits, it would have to be very large hard drives — conspicuously large.

The big cable companies want us to believe that they’ll advocate for us and they’ve promised not to charge us by content or block anything, but history has shown that every major telecom, like AT&T or Comcast, has already blocked content, and it’s been over 30 years since they’ve introduced advertising to cable television. They’re liars.

Given how private we are about porn viewing habits, I’d like to ask if this absurdly dark future of making everyone pay for porn again might be the unifying fear as we grasp that we have to let go of hiding one of our favorite past times — will you explain this to your repressed relatives?

Stay tuned for a follow-up…

If you were attentive, you’re asking yourself about that 4% who do pay for porn. They’re the ones funding this mass wealth of data online. This involves me asking some purveyors for data, but the potential for economic shift is incredible.

Want to do something?

Go do something: https://www.battleforthenet.com/

Screencap of who’s supporting the repeal of Net Neutrality from https://www.battleforthenet.com/

Further reading material:

Naked capitalism

The internet blew the porn industry’s business model apart. Its response holds lessons for other media firms:
http://www.economist.com/news/international/21666114-internet-blew-porn-industrys-business-model-apart-its-response-holds-lessons

How to Find Porn on the Internet

Stuart Lawley has chosen a strange mission for his company, ICM Registry: helping you find pornography online. Is this something for which sentient human beings require assistance?
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-09-27/how-to-find-porn-on-the-internet

Pornhub’s 2016 Year in Review

They’v had a great year at Pornhub, and our Insights blog has delivered tons of awesome data over the course of 2016.
https://www.pornhub.com/insights/2016-year-in-review

The Porn Business Isn’t Anything Like You Think It Is

There’s an enormous audience for porn, and whatever it signifies, whatever emotions it stirs in critics, this audience isn’t going away.
https://www.wired.com/2015/10/the-porn-business-isnt-anything-like-you-think-it-is/

Finally, Some Actual Stats on Internet Porn

Infographic:
https://gizmodo.com/5552899/finally-some-actual-stats-on-internet-porn