Finding the "Public Interest" in Policy Decisions

Finding the "Public Interest" in Policy Decisions

Professor Tom Wheeler
Fall 2017 reading group
W 5:00pm - 8:00pm in WCC Room 3008
1 classroom credit

Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: No Exam

The Communications Act dictates that decisions be made in “the public interest, convenience and necessity.” Decision-making, however, is rarely so clear-cut. Policy makers must work their way through multiple public interests to arrive at a conclusion that is in the interest of the broadest common good. This reading group will examine the three most significant recent decisions of the FCC – net neutrality, privacy, and cybersecurity – by weighing and debating the various public interests.

The course will be structured similar to the kind of war game table top exercises (TTXs) run in the federal government. The class will be divided into three groups for three different case studies. Each student will be given the opportunity to test the public interest as an advocate for the industry, the public, as well as being the decider. The discussions will begin with the opponents of each proposal, since the most important part of each policy debate is overcoming the inertia of the status quo. Each advocacy group will present its arguments and then debate with each other under questioning by the decider group. Upon reaching a conclusion, the decider group will justify its decision against the attacks of the advocacy groups. Course materials will be drawn from FCC filings, congressional hearings, court decisions, and press reports for each of the three topics.

Note: This reading group will meet on the following dates: 9/6, 9/13, 10/18, 11/1, 11/15.

Subject Areas: Intellectual Property, Cyberlaw and Technology, and Arts & Entertainment, Regulatory Law