SELLING THIN AIR

THE REAGAN ADMINISTRATION, desperately seeking to bring down the budget deficit, is proposing to sell thin air. Its proposed budget includes a plan to raise $600 million by auctioning off the "airwaves" used for paging devices and certain cellular phone systems.

Mark Fowler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, who came up with the idea, said it has been tailored to "reduce the political winds by carving (broadcasters and other current license holders) out of the deal." Similar proposals have been defeated by such groups in the past.It looks like they might do the same thing again. The broadcasters want new frequencies for high definition television, and they aren't likely to be happy paying for what, until now, they have gotten free.

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