(TheRedWire.com) – Over the last twenty years, Google rose in the ranks to be one of the largest, most dominant companies in the world. Its influence is enormous. Google is known primarily for its search engine and receives the bulk of revenues from advertisers wanting access to its massive audience.
During the last five years, Google began to face lawsuits and regulations overseas regarding some of its privacy practices and for using its market-dominant position to place its own product ads over those of paying competitors.
In the United States, many argued that Google’s size and ability to squeeze out competitors gave the company a significant competitive advantage. For years, critics claimed that Google should be treated as a public utility due to its influence and prevalent public usage. That would level the playing field and allow more state government regulations. Regulators could then act as a check and balance on the company, much like electric companies.
On Tuesday, June 8, Ohio became the first state in the nation to file a lawsuit asking a judge to rule the search company a utility.
Making Google a Utility
Ohio’s Republican Attorney General Dave Yost alleged that Google favors its own products in a manner that “intentionally disadvantages competitors,” in his civil complaint. According to industry sources, Google dominates more than 91% of search traffic worldwide. Yost wants no money damages. Instead, the Ohio AG said Google has a responsibility to ensure it treats everyone equally. By declaring the search company a common carrier, it would be subject to government regulations under state law.
Yost explained that a railroad, electric provider, and mobile phone company are all private businesses as utilities. However, as state utility providers with few competitors, they are required by law to treat everyone the same and provide fair pricing and equal access.
Why a Utility?
In April, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas suggested there’s validity to regulating tech companies as utilities. Common carriers and public utilities date to the 19th century. Disputes arose over price controls and service denials by railroads, ferries, and water companies. Courts determined that when lack of competition or other access issues force people to use certain companies’ services, those companies tend to discriminate, over-charge for resources or services, or deny service to certain individuals because of the government-like powers the companies developed. As a result, the companies received special privileges and protections from competition.
Yost argues that’s exactly the situation with Google today. He said the company is so large that it can even do what the government Constitutionally can’t – control what we say, hear, and learn.
Legal observers will be watching this case closely.
Copyright 2021, TheRedWire.com