Month: October 2012

Will the FCC/FTC regulate Google?

I recently read an article that prices are rising on click-through advertising.  I also use an article in class on a small business who ran afoul of the Google advertising rules and Google took his business off of their search advertising..  The small business owner reported that losing Google as an ad source almost killed his business.  These two unrelated and disparate data points brings to mind the world of media regulation, a world that Google is for the most part does not involve Google.  But could it?

The FCC regulates most media.  Many of the rules are obsolete, but each was crafted to solve a marketplace problem.  These rules include mandatory access for certain speech and prohibitions against other speech.  The FCC would regulate the marketplace to correct perceived imbalances.  And the marketplace was three very powerful networks (ABC, CBS, NBC), a public outlet (PBS), an emerging network (FOX) and numerous independent stations (think WGN/WPIX/KWGN).  So even with multiple outlets, the feds deemed the marketplace in need of regulation.

Google is THE dominant player in search and in search advertising.  It has enormous power to help businesses. I now wonder if their search power and their pricing power is so absolute that the feds (either the FCC or the FTC) might decide to try to regulate them.  Yes, there are plenty of obstacles to such regulation including the First Amendment. 

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