“Contrary to what you might have heard, reversing the Open Internet rules is not a slam dunk,” Wheeler said. He pointed to the profitability of Internet service providers and investment in Internet infrastructure as evidence that net neutrality has a positive effect on companies as well as end users.

“Tampering with the rules means taking away protections consumers and the online world enjoy today,” he said. “What some describe as ‘free market economics’ cannot mean simply freeing incumbents of their responsibilities. A hands-off approach to network oversight is more than a shift in direction, it is a decision to remove rights and move backward.”

Wheeler pointed out that streaming services like AT&T’s DirecTV Now are assured access to the networks of competitors like Comcast and Verizon. That’s evidence that net neutrality is working, he said.

But he also singled out the fact that AT&T and Verizon favor their own streaming services on their networks—a practice the FCC frowned upon in a report this week—as a warning that carriers could be quick to abandon net neutrality if the FCC relaxes its oversight.

Wheeler delivered his remarks at the Aspen Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank that he will join as a senior fellow once he steps down from his post at the FCC.