The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to repeal the classification of the internet as a public utility, taking the first step in rolling back the landmark decision adopted during the Obama administration.

The vote, which fell along party lines with Chairman Ajit Pai and fellow Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly voting in favor of the motion while lone Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn opposing, does not immediately change the rules but begins the process to repeal rules set in place to protect net neutrality.

Read: Is Net Neutrality Dead? What The Internet Will Look Like Without Open Internet Rules, Title II

The proposed rule changes, presented by Pai as “Restoring Internet Freedom,” seek to reverse a 2015 vote by the FCC — then under the leadership of Chairman Tom Wheeler — that reclassified the internet as a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act.

The vote Thursday also opens up the ability of the FCC to re-examine “Bright Line” rules — the principles of net neutrality that prohibit blocking content, slowing or throttling connections and paid prioritization that favors services that pay a fee.

The FCC will now accept public comments on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that will eliminate the Title II classification. Comments will be accepted for 90 days, and a vote on the plan is expected to take place Aug. 16.

Clyburn offered a fervent rebuke of the order, calling it a “political rush job” and said we "should not let broadband providers define the rules of engagement when Congress has clearly entrusted the commission with that responsibility.”

She was joined by advocacy groups including the Consumers Union, Center for Media Justice, Fight for the Future, Demand Progress, Public Knowledge and the American Library Association, who all issued statements opposing the decision.

"What is now at stake is the ability of the FCC—the expert agency by law—to protect consumers on what is now one of the most critical inputs to the US economy—broadband networks," Gigi Sohn, a Fellow at Mozilla and the Open Society Foundations, said.

Sohn, who served as a Counselor to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, explained, "Chairman Pai is proposing to abdicate the FCC’s role and give it to the Federal Trade Commission, while an important partner, cannot make rules and lacks the technical expertise to do so. Under the FTC, consumers will have no protection whatsoever until long after the harm to them is done."

Pai argued the internet "was not broken in 2015" when the Open Internet Order was approved and "we were not living in a digital dystopia.” He called the net neutrality protections the work of “partisan pressure from the White House” and argued regulatory burdens associated with the Title II classification have slowed network growth and harmed businesses.

Read: What Is Net Neutrality? How FCC's Title II and Open Internet Rules Came To Be

Pai’s assertion that network investment by ISPs has slowed since the Title II classification was put in place has been called into question. Free Press released a study this week that showed investment has actually increased by 5 percent since the Open Internet Order took effect.

Mozilla Foundation Executive Director Mark Surman told International Business Times his organization has not seen the supposed decrease in investment or innovation Pai cites. “We believe net neutrality ... fuels innovation and competition by keeping the internet an open, level playing field,” he said.

Several groups representing people of color condemned the FCC's vote. Rashad Robinson, the Executive Director of racial justice group Color Of Change said, “Today’s move by the FCC and Chairman Ajit Pai to gut net neutrality rules will devastate Black communities. Net neutrality is essential to protecting our free and open Internet, which has been crucial to today’s fights for civil rights and equality."

Said Carmen Scurato, the Director of Policy and Legal Affairs at the National Hispanic Media Coalition, called the decision "very concerning" and said the vote "shirks the agency’s obligations as a consumer watchdog in ways that threaten to widen the digital divide by giving Internet Service Providers more power to restrict access to the internet." 

Surman noted Thursday’s vote was only a first step in a longer process and encouraged the public to remain engaged in the conversation.

“I hope public opinion can have an impact,” he said. “Mozilla is encouraged by the previous public support for net neutrality, in late 2014 and early 2015. Millions of Americans called and wrote the FCC. That salvo played a role in the FCC enshrining net neutrality. It would be very unfortunate if Pai chose to ignore such overwhelming support for these rules.”

The public comment period for Pai’s proposed “Restoring Internet Freedom” rules was fraught with controversy. The website where the public could leave comment went down temporarily following a segment on John Oliver’s HBO show Last Week Tonight in which he encouraged users to comment in favor of keeping current net neutrality protections.

The FCC said its site was hit by a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that made the site inaccessible for hundreds of thousands of commenters directed to the site by Oliver. Several groups have questioned the legitimacy of the FCC’s claim regarding the DDoS attack.

The following week, the FCC comment site was flooded with identical comments opposing current net neutrality protections made by what appeared to be an automated bot. The more than 100,000 comments were accompanied with the names and contact information of real people, but many of those people reported never writing a comment.

O’Rielly dismissed the role of public commenters in his statement during Thursday’s proceeding, saying net neutrality “isn’t a Dancing with the Stars contest."