Next week on Wednesday the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights will hold antitrust-related hearings on Google. This is a proceeding separate from but broadly related to the wide-ranging FTC antitrust investigation.
The title of the hearing is ”The Power of Google: Serving Consumers or Threatening Competition?” This title perfectly anticipates the two divergent lines of testimony that you’re likely to hear.
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt will testify on behalf of Google. He will try to explain Google’s attitude and methodology without getting too technical. The committee will also hear from a range of others, including Google critics who will likely assert that Google is using its power unfairly in the market and thereby threatening competition.
Here’s the announced witness list (others may be added):
- Eric Schmidt, Google
- Jeff Katz, CEO, Nextag
- Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO, Yelp
- Thomas O. Barnett, Attorney, Covington & Burling LLP (also a former Asst. Attorney General for Antitrust)
- Susan A. Creighton, Attorney, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, PC
Danny Sullivan will be present and live blogging some of the testimony. Antitrust geeks can watch a live webcast of the proceedings.
I wouldn’t expect to hear much in the way of neutral comments. Perhaps most interesting will be Yelp CEO Stoppelman’s testimony and that of Jeff Katz, who represent publishers Google is competing with.
While the hearings will be widely covered and followed closely by professional Google watchers, the fact of the antitrust investigation and hearings will mean little to “ordinary users” at this point.
Postscript by Gary Price (September 18, 2011):
Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt was interviewed by Christiane Amanpour today on ABC’s “This Week” program. Here’s a link to the portion of the interview where Schmidt discusses the antitrust hearings.
Over on Politico, Michelle Quinn has posted the story, “Google’s algorithm for Hill hearings.” Our own Greg Sterling is quoted.
Greg Tells Politico:
“It’s very much like a political campaign,” said Greg Sterling, an analyst who researches the mobile Internet. Like a political campaign, positions are hardened on both sides with few in the middle. “There are audiences predisposed to believe one way or another.”
Sterling doesn’t see the company leaning back — and points to the recent decision by Google to roll out its first travel service, albeit in a low-keyed way, from its purchase of ITA travel service. That acquisition was approved by the DOJ earlier this year with conditions, after foes like Expedia, TripAdvisor, Microsoft and other companies cited antitrust concerns.
Finally, Reuters has also published a story about the hearings.