Some U.S. lawmakers are doing what they're elected to do; taking the law into their own hands.

In this case, they're proposing new legislation that would prohibit broadband providers from making web content generators pay an upcharge for priority traffic management.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and three additional Democrats have introduced the Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act, which would enact a ban on broadband providers who attempt to charge fees and surcharges on websites and other online services for preferential traffic handling.

These so-called Internet "fast lanes" would be pay-to-play speed advantages for companies willing to pony up. Opponents argue that it would provide an unfair competitive advantage for the big boys against start-ups and smaller companies.

The battle is currently raging on in Washington involving the Federal Communications Commision and proponents of both sides of the net neutrality issue. The pending legislation brought by Leahy and crew is meant to add some weight to the pro-neutrality cause.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in April came out on the side of reinstating net neutrality rules after a U.S. appeals court ruled in favor of scrapping a previous version of the regulations. Wheeler has been the subject of bipartisan controversy, admittedly over an issue in which it will be ultimately hard to please both sides.

Wheeler was nominated by President Obama to the FCC post about one year ago. He was a venture capitalist who had been in charge of both the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association.

In response to senators' inquiries about where Wheeler's loyalties lie, he responded "I have long been an advocate of diversity of voices. When the commission looks at these issues, competition, localism and diversity are the issues that should be the touchstones, not business plans." Wheeler was confirmed as chairman after a contentious approval process.

His background as a proponent of cable and telecom company causes has led many to believe that he would support an anti-net neutrality position. Ultimately, Wheeler decided to throw the issue to the vicissitudes of public opinion, and the public was invited to submit their views on net neutrality through the FCC's website.

This period of open public comment has generated over 120,000 public comments, comprised to a large degree of comments spurred by television entertainer John Oliver, who in a 13-minute rant on his HBO show Last Week Tonight encouraged viewers to flood the FCC's website with pro-neutrality comments. The initial outpouring of responses from Oliver's viewers did bring the FCC's comments site to a standstill temporarily.

Speaking for the legislators who are promoting the Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act, Leahy said "Americans are speaking loud and clear. They want an Internet that is a platform for free expression and innovation, where the best ideas and services can reach consumers based on merit rather than based on a financial relationship with a broadband provider."

ⓒ 2021 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.