Appetite for interruption

Cable’s greedy plan to destroy the Internet as we know it

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The full version of this story originally appeared in City Pages. To read it, go to

Like any bloodless coup, this one takes place within the palace, beyond the purview of prying eyes. It’s an inside job spearheaded by the ultimate in inside players, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. He’s a former Obama fundraiser, cable lobbyist, and head of the cable trade association, chosen by the president to chaperon the very industry he once served.

Wheeler’s loyalties were evident in May, when he proposed segregating the Internet between the haves and have-nots. Under the plan, cable operators could charge large companies like Netflix extra to move their wares over a high-speed expressway. Anyone who couldn’t pay the toll would be relegated to frontage roads.

Critics—who include most everyone but cable companies—believe Wheeler’s plan will shaft consumers and squelch innovation. Present rules dictate that all traffic moves at the same speed, part of a long-standing principle known as “net neutrality.”