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FCC repeals U.S. net neutrality rules

WATCH ABOVE: FCC ruling on net neutrality could lead to protracted legal battle.

In a vote along party lines, the federal government has ended sweeping net-neutrality rules that guaranteed equal access to the internet.

The Thursday vote at the Federal Communications Commission will likely usher in big changes in how Americans use the internet, a radical departure from more than a decade of federal oversight. The move not only rolls back restrictions that keep broadband providers like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T from blocking or collecting tolls from services they don’t like, but bars states from imposing their own rules.

READ MORE: Why Canadians should care about the internet changes in the U.S.

The broadband industry promises that the internet experience isn’t going to change, but its companies have lobbied hard to overturn these rules. 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.

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Democrats, Hollywood and companies like Google parent Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc had urged Pai, a Republican appointed by U.S. President Donald Trump, to keep the Obama-era rules barring service providers from blocking, slowing access to or charging more for certain content.

WATCH: Why should you care about America’s net neutrality vote?

Why you should care about America’s net neutrality vote
Why you should care about America’s net neutrality vote

That growing public movement suggests that the FCC vote won’t be the end of the issue. Opponents of the move plan legal challenges, and some net-neutrality supporters hope to ride that wave of public opinion into the 2018 elections.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican who said 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.

READ MORE: 1.3M comments on net neutrality were likely faked, data expert says

“What is the FCC doing today?” he asked. “Quite simply, we are restoring the light-touch framework that has governed the internet for most of its existence.”

Under the new rules, the Comcasts and AT&Ts of the world will be free to block rival apps, slow down competing service or offer faster speeds to companies who pay up. They just have to post their policies online or tell the FCC.

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The change also axes consumer protections, bars state laws that contradict the FCC’s approach, and largely transfers oversight of internet service to another agency, the Federal Trade Commission.

WATCH: FCC net neutrality vote interrupted by evacuation due to security issue
FCC net neutrality vote interrupted by evacuation due to security issue
FCC net neutrality vote interrupted by evacuation due to security issue

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat who was appointed by President Barack Obama, lambasted the “preordained outcome” of the vote that she says hurts people, small and large businesses, and marginalized populations. She outlined her dissent from prepared remarks before the vote.

The end of net neutrality, she said, hands over the keys to the internet to a “handful of multi-billion dollar corporations.”

With their vote, the FCC’s majority commissioners are abandoning the pledge they took to make a rapid, efficient communications service available to all people in the U.S., without discrimination, Clyburn said in her dissenting remarks before the vote.

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