Twenty four Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, including former committee chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) and former House Speaker Dennis Hassert (R-IL), urged FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to reconsider his plan to invoke the “70/70 rule” so as to subject the U.S. cable industry to new regulations, asserting in a letter written on Tuesday that “such actions are unsupported by the record of significant competition in the video programming marketplace, and would be harmful to innovation and consumers.” Under the 70/70 test prescribed in the 1984 Cable Act, the FCC may expand its regulatory powers over the cable industry once 70% of U.S. homes are passed by cable and 70% of those households subscribe to cable services. Martin, who proclaimed earlier this month that statistics provided in the FCC’s yet-to-be-released 2007 video market report demonstrate that these thresholds have been met, is expected to introduce a slate of new regulations as early as next week’s FCC open meeting that would cap cable system ownership by any one firm at 30% of pay TV subscribers nationwide, slash leased access rates by 75%, and impose other limits on the cable industry. Describing the 70/70 rule as “a tool to respond to a decrease in program diversity,” the lawmakers warned Martin that any effort to invoke the rule at this time would be “misguided and harmful” as “consumers now have at their fingertips an unprecedented amount of content from a large number of sources.” While requesting a list of proposed regulations from Martin that could be enacted under the 70/70 mandate, the committee Republicans also asked to see the statistics that form the basis of Martin’s conclusions on the 70/70 test. Giving Martin a November 26 deadline to comply with their demands, the lawmakers noted that the publisher of the data used in the FCC’s video market report insisted that the statistics could not be used to verify a 70/70 test finding as not all cable operators had submitted their totals on subscriber numbers and homes passed.