NEW YORK (AP) -- The Federal Communications Commission has voted along party lines to undo sweeping Obama-era "net neutrality" rules that guaranteed equal access to internet.

The agency's Democratic commissioners dissented in the 3-2 vote Thursday.

The FCC's new rules could usher in big changes in how Americans use the internet. The agency got rid of rules that barred companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon from playing favorites with internet apps and sites.

The broadband industry promises that the internet experience isn't going to change. But protests have erupted online and in the streets as everyday Americans worry that cable and phone companies will be able to control what they see and do online.

Net-neutrality supporters plan legal challenges. Some Democrats hope to ride that wave of public opinion into the 2018 elections.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican who says his plan to repeal net neutrality will eliminate unnecessary regulation, called the internet the "greatest free-market innovation in history."

He added that it "certainly wasn't heavy-handed government regulation" that's been responsible for the internet's "phenomenal" development. "Quite the contrary," he says.

"The sky is not falling, consumers will remain protected and the internet will continue to thrive," Pai said. 

Not long after the vote, Kentucky State Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Louisville) released the following statement:

Yarmuth Statement on the FCC’s Vote to End Net Neutrality

Today, the FCC’s Republican majority voted to kill critical net neutrality protections put in place during the Obama Administration. This is a dark day for supporters of a free and open internet. I have heard from thousands of Louisvillians who rightly and vehemently oppose this decision. Under these revised rules, a handful of big corporations will now have near complete control over the internet, with the ability to pick winners and losers among small businesses and decide what content consumers can view or create online. The American people—both Democrats and Republicans—overwhelmingly oppose the FCC’s decision and support a fair and level playing field on the internet. Congress needs to act.

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