Last week, reports came out indicating that four out of five FTC commissioners are supporting an antitrust suit against Google, and that a decision will come in late November or December.
Also last week, Congressman Jared Polis (D-Colorado) sent a letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz about the FTC’s pursuance of such a suit, calling on the commission to “tread carefully” and “not undertake action that would compromise” Google’s service and ability to innovate and improve its products or “make search engine results less useful for consumers or businesses.”
Polis has experience in online business, having founded ProFlowers.com and Blue Mountain Arts, an online greeting cards company. He was also a vocal opponent of SOPA and PIPA. Ahead of the famous SOPA blackout day, Polis had spoken about his opposition on the game forums at League of Legends (via Forbes), saying, “As a member of the League of Legends community (partial to Anivia and Maokai), and as someone who made his living as an Internet entrepreneur before being elected to Congress, I’m greatly concerned about the future of the Internet and gaming if Congress doesn’t wake up. You may have heard that Congress is currently considering a bill called the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. While SOPA has a ton of problems, there are some significant issues that I thought fellow gamers might want to know about.”
In other words, he might be considered a bit more web-savvy than your average congressman.
“I’ve seen firsthand Google’s economic impact on my state: in 2011, Google helped generate $1.4 billion of economic activity for Colorado businesses, website publishers and nonprofits,” Polis writes in the letter. “We take it for granted now, but search engines have democratized access to information and made it possible for consumers to find information and services from the other side of the world. Search Engines have also helped businesses tap new markets and new customers. At a time when the national economy continues to stagnate, it’s not clear to me why the FTC should be focusing on a product that consumers seem very happy with, search engines.”
“While Google is surely a big company and an important service in people’s lives, my constituents also use a variety of competing services, including Amazon.com for shopping, iTunes for music and movies, Facebook for social networking and recommendations, and mobile apps like Yelp for finding local businesses,” he continues. “Competition is only a click away and there are no barriers to competition; if I created a better search algorithm I could set up a server in my garage and compete globally with Google. To even discuss applying anti-trust in this kind of hyper-competitive environment defies all logic and the very underpinnings of anti-trust law itself.”
“I have never heard one of my constituents say they don’t feel like they have enough choices online, or that they feel locked in to any of these services,” he adds. “Competition among these services is leading to lots of great services for consumers — and consumers aren’t asking Congress or the FTC to protect them. Quite to the contrary consumers demand the rapid pace of progress and change that has become the norm on the internet.”
He later makes the point that in the past, firms like AOL, MySpace and Yahoo were considered dominant, but have since struggled to retain consumers online. Here’s the letter in its entirety: