The Federal Communications Commission won praise last year for saying it would stop giving away airwaves--and start selling them. But now it is retreating. At issue are cellular licenses the FCC awarded for free in the 1980s but later reclaimed as systems weren't built. Most licenses are for worthless rural zones, but some could fetch millions, such as those for parts of Los Angeles. Chairman Reed E. Hundt proposed selling them, but was outvoted 2 to 1 on grounds that it's unfair to change rules. Now the FCC has a full five members, so Hundt may force another vote by yearend.

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