Front and center at a Congressional subcommittee probing competition in the digital marketplace Thursday was Google as experts and speakers took turns bashing and supporting the search giant.
"Google is a vastly more-serious antitrust threat than Microsoft ever was," said Scott Cleland, a frequent commentator on telecommunications issues. "[Google] hides multiple serious conflicts of interest."
Ed Black of the Computer and Communications Industry Association came to Google's rescue pointing out that Facebook passed Google this week in the amount of "time spent" by web users. Black, who is CEO of the CCIA, supported CCIA member Google, and pointed out that the trade association has filed a case against IBM "for abusing locked-in customers in an attempt to maintain its mainframe monopoly."
Cleland, who is the founder and president of research and consulting firm Precursor LLC, asked that Google be "prosecuted."
Chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy, Rep. Hank Johnson, a Democrat from Georgia, had cautioned the hearing attendees not to turn the hearing into "a forum for Google-bashing." The antitrust hearings are focused on examining "competition in the evolving digital marketplace."
Another speaker, Wayne Crews, vice president for policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, urged a new challenge to the conventional wisdom of 'smokestack era' antitrust laws. "Even when companies misbehave, they do not act in a vacuum," he said in a communication to the subcommittee. "Providing the necessary competitive responses to successful firms like Google is exactly what markets are for."
Another speaker, Richard Feinstein, director of the Federal Trade Commission's bureau of competition, said one reason Google is attracting attention is because it has been so successful.