* Republicans question need for Net neutrality rule
* Say rule could stifle investment in broadband (Adds Public Knowledge comment, edits)
WASHINGTON, Oct 5 (Reuters) - A group of U.S. House of Representatives Republicans urged the Federal Communications Commission to conduct a market analysis before proposing a new rule to maintain an open Internet.
In a letter Monday to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, 20 Republicans asked the FCC if the agency will be examining networks, services, consumer electronics equipment, applications, as well as cable, wireline, wireless, satellite and broadband to determine if a rule to govern Net neutrality is necessary.
“You have repeatedly said that you want this to be the most data-driven FCC ever,” wrote the Republicans, led by Cliff Stearns, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet.
“This is an opportunity to demonstrate that commitment.”
The FCC is due to propose a Net neutrality rule on Oct. 22 aimed at ensuring that network operators treat the flow of Internet content and applications without discrimination.
The rule, which is currently being considered by the FCC commissioners, would prevent network operators from blocking consumer access to any lawful Internet content, applications and services.
The letter from Stearns and other House lawmakers is the latest push by Republicans in questioning the need for a Net neutrality rule.
The measure is opposed by big wireless companies such as AT&T Inc (T.N) and Verizon Wireless, who say they need the ability to protect their networks from capacity-hogging applications like video file sharing.
Gigi Sohn, head of the Public Knowledge advocacy group, called the letter “another attempt at a delaying tactic by those who favor big telecom and cable companies over competition and innovation.”
On Friday, House Republican Leader John Boehner and Republican Whip Eric Cantor wrote a letter to President Barack Obama, expressing concern that a rule would thwart further broadband investment.
An FCC panel crafting a national broadband plan, to be submitted to Congress in February, said last week it would cost between $20 billion and $350 billion to expand access to all Americans.
“Net neutrality rules would make it harder, not easier, for such investments to occur,” Stearns and the other Republicans wrote.
An FCC spokeswoman declined to comment. (Reporting by John Poirier, editing by Matthew Lewis and Tim Dobbyn)