Google's Schmidt faces Senate grilling today

Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt is ready to speak before the U.S. Senate's antitrust subcommittee, and already some excerpts from his testimony have emerged.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

Google executive chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt will be speaking before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee later today as that panel looks to determine whether Google abuses its power in online search.

Understandably, Schmidt will accentuate the positive, emphasizing why he believes Google has done so much good for the world, according to his prepared testimony.

"We believe that the FTC's inquiry will reveal an enthusiastic company filled with people who believe we have only just scratched the surface of what's possible," Schmidt will reportedly say before the Senate subcommittee in his prepared testimony, according to Politico, which has obtained an excerpt. "That passion to do better will not only serve our users well, it will serve our nation well, by helping create the new jobs and economic growth that America needs."

According to the New York Times, which also obtained Schmidt's upcoming testimony, the former Google CEO will show how the company has helped spur economic growth. Schmidt will say that Google search and advertising have "helped generate $64 billion in economic activity for hundreds of thousands of small businesses throughout the United States."

However, not everyone is so convinced of Google's assistance to small businesses. Over the last few years, Google faced concerns over its power and influence across the Web, but as of late, complaints have hit a tipping point, culminating this June in a subpoena sent to Google by the Federal Trade Commission, asking the company to answer questions on its search dominance and charges that it stifles competition.

Related stories:
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ZDNet: How evil is Google? Your senators want to know
CBS News Webcast of hearing, starting at 11 a.m. PT

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the antitrust subcommittee, says Schmidt will have to answer a series of questions about the size and scope of Google's dominance and whether it has abused that power in ways that harm companies like Yelp and Expedia.

"Google is a great American success story, and its excellence in search is what's given it the kind of dominance that it has," Blumenthal said on the Public Radio International show The Takeaway this morning. "The point is that competition in the Web content is inhibited if Google is unfairly or illegally preferencing its own content, its own Web sites, for example Google Finance or Travel or other kinds of sites in the way it arranges the results of search."

The European Union is also concerned with Google's power on the Web. Just last week, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said that his organization was determining whether Google is a dominant force in search, and if so, whether it's abusing that position to the detriment of competitors.

And it's not just governments. A host of consumer organizations are also targeting Google, claiming the company has too much power.

Consumer Watchdog has been especially outspoken about Google's practices, and today will bring mimes to the Dirksen Senate Office Building where Schmidt will testify. Those mimes, which will follow people around the building, will be wearing white track suits with "Google Track Team" emblazoned on the front, indicating its belief that Google illegally tracks users when surfing the Web.

According to Consumer Watchdog, Google has "an information monopoly," and it wants to see the company get "broken up."

Schmidt will surely seek to rebut those sorts of charges. According to the Times, Schmidt will say before the subcommittee today that "the cost of going elsewhere (on the Web) is zero, and users can and do use other sources to find the information they want."

But more than anything, Schmidt just wants the FTC's inquiry into its business practices to be fair.

"We hope [the investigation] will be conducted in a focused and fair manner so that we can continue creating jobs and building products that delight our users," Schmidt will say before the subcommittee, according to the New York Times.

CNET's Greg Sandoval will be reporting later today from the hearing later, which is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. PT. Tune in here at that time for the CBS News Webcast.