Hazlett estimates that, sold to the highest bidders, this prime electromagnetic real estate would be worth $100 billion in revenues to the government and a trillion (that’s right) in consumer benefits. Yes, the remaining ten million households that still depend on “free” TV would lose their signals. But Hazlett reckons that cable or satellite hookups could be provided to all these stranded viewers for just $3 billion in subsidies. And the cable and satellite companies could be required to offer the local stations at no cost – a not unreasonable mandate, since they distribute the signals on their networks anyway.
The only catch: the owners of local TV stations (who never paid a penny for the spectrum) still see it as their “property.” Thus, to get from here to there, politicians would have to stand up to their lobbyists.