When Tom Wheeler was the head of the cable industry’s biggest lobbying group, he owned the stage of its annual trade show.
On Wednesday, he appeared on that stage again but on the other side — as the chief federal regulator who had recently slapped broad and historic new rules on their businesses.
And he dug his heels in deeper on those unpopular actions, explaining that the decisions to create new net neutrality rules and to block Comcast’s merger with Time Warner Cable were driven by a common factor: the transition of cable TV firms into businesses that primarily supply high-speed Internet.
Cable operators must “overcome the temptation to use your predominant position in broadband to protect your traditional cable business,” he said.
He said that with that transition, too much was at stake for consumers and the wide ecosystem of businesses that rely on guaranteed access to the Internet.
“Often people say to me, ‘I know you won’t do anything crazy, but what about those who follow you?’ ” Wheeler said. “My response is, ‘I take you at your word to protect an open Internet, but what about those that follow you?’ ”