Running a Federal Agency: Lessons from Business, Technology and Game Theory

Return to Course Catalog

Fall 2013 Reading Group
Meets: W 5:00pm - 8:00pm in Lewis Room 214A
1 classroom credit

COURSE OBJECTIVES

This course will offer first-hand insights into the management of a U.S. federal agency and the role of the Federal Communications Commission, particularly in unleashing the opportunities of wired and wireless broadband. The class's instructor served as FCC Chairman from 2009-2013, after a decade as an executive and investor in Internet and media.

Informally called Running a Federal Agency: Lessons from Business, Technology and Poker, the class will focus on the development, adoption and implementation of policies in a time of changing technology, a challenging economy, and increasing polarization. In other words, how to get good things done as the head of a federal agency, in a sector important to U.S. innovation, economic growth and global competitiveness.

Questions that will be discussed include:

  • What major policies and initiatives should the FCC adopt if its goals are to drive private investment and innovation in wired and wireless broadband networks and applications; foster competitive and healthy markets; and empower consumers and entrepreneurs? Should those be its goals?
  • How can a 75-year-old agency with roughly 2,000 employees and numerous legacy practices and processes best develop those policies and initiatives?
  • Should a federal agency conduct a strategic planning process and, if so, how?
  • What are they key challenges to successful development, adoption and implementation of major policies and initiatives, and how can they be overcome?
  • How should the FCC interact with the President, other federal agencies, and Congress?
  • What role can and should outside stakeholders play? The media?
  • What works, and what doesn’t, when it comes to managing a federal agency and engaging with external constituencies? What are the lessons from the private sector, both operations and dealmaking? What are the lessons from game theory and games of skill (like poker)?
  • What’s the role of technology in managing a federal agency and achieving its mission?
  • COURSE APPROACH & CONTENT

    The class will take an informal case studies approach, looking at how the FCC tackled several major initiatives and proceedings during the last four years, including:

  • Open Internet rules (net neutrality)
  • Decisions on the attempted AT&T/T-Mobile merger and completed Comcast/NBC acquisition
  • Developing and implementing Incentive Auctions and other major initiatives to free up spectrum for mobile broadband
  • Modernizing complex regulatory systems from telephone to broadband: Universal Service Fund and Intercarrier Compensation reform.
  • Mesh networking, next-gen 911 and other new ideas to harness technology for public safety communications
  • Education Technology: 21st century connectivity and learning in K-12
  • The course will meet on September 11, October 9, November 13 and December 4.

    The first class meeting will take place in Griswold 110. All other class meetings will take place in Lewis 214A.

    PREREQUISITES

    Enrollment is by permission of the instructor. Interested students should send one paragraph on their interest in the class, along with a CV, to Patricia Merullo at pmerullo@law.harvard.edu. Applications are due Friday, August 30 and decisions will be made by Monday, September 9.

    The course is open to HBS students for credit and to other graduate students.

    © 2014 The President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved.