No More Free Air

Republicans are looking in some unexpected places for cash to pay for their proposed tax cuts. The GOP-controlled Congress wants to require broadcasters to cough up unspecified "service fees" for use of new space on the public airwaves. The provision is part of a major revision of the nation's communications laws set for Senate action next month. House leaders also back the fee for use of space originally set aside for high-definition television. Bandwidth for HDTV is unneeded now that the industry is leapfrogging to digital TV, which hogs less spectrum. Broadcasters say they're willing to pony up millions in service fees--if it means escaping paying the $10 billion to $100 billion that critics say the airwaves would fetch on the auction block. The Treasury has raked in nearly $9 billion from other spectrum auctions in the last year.