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Opinion | Make Google a Public Good




When the court declares Google a utility, the marketplace itself provides a guardrail. Modern utilities generally follow the rules, and Google is unlikely to face an avalanche of proceedings, but anyone who feels unfairly upset can seek relief in court.

The obligation of utilities to operate for the public good goes back to the common law in the United Kingdom, where major economic players, such as ferry operators, had to fulfill certain obligations to the public. During the Gilded Age, the railroad king Cornelius Vanderbilt dominated the key bridge to New York City by train. In the late 1860s, he closed the bridge to his rivals, effectively blocking the rest of the country from the largest ports and cutting the city from food supplies from the west.

He quickly bought a dominant position when competing railroad stocks crashed. As a result, Vanderbild took advantage of chokepoint control to establish a monopoly. To curb such looting, Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890, after which it began codifying the Carriers Act and the Utilities Act.

However, utility common law remains in many places, including Ohio. Codification requires detailed regulation to address all issues in advance, but common law allows for subtle legislation tailored to specific disputes, so statutory regulation produces different results than common law.

Of course, there are many critics of Ohio proceedings. To knock down a few Straumanns: Ohio’s actions do not undermine Google’s right to free speech. On the contrary, Google is free to say whatever it wants. What it may not be able to do is to use its monopoly power to limit the commerce of others in order to hunt down other markets.

Critics also say that this raises the issue of dormant commercial provisions that one of the 50 states uses its law in a way that burdens violations of interstate commerce, sovereignty and federalism. say. However, Google can geofence Ohio if it chooses (and other states most likely to follow Ohio’s leadership).

The truth of the matter is that foreign governments are already regulating cyberspace around the world, with much heavier hands. The European Union requires cookie warnings and privacy protection. Google has settled the Francis proceedings over Google’s advertising infrastructure.

Google’s first response in our case is scheduled for the next few weeks. The preface to Google’s parent company Code of Conduct states, “Do what is right, act with respect, and treat your colleagues with courtesy, support, and respect.” Google was able to do that by admitting the obvious: it is so dominant that private sector rules no longer apply to it.

Republican Dave Yost is the Attorney General of Ohio.

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