Ohio Attorney General Wants Google Declared a Public Utility

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed a lawsuit asking a court to declare Google a public utility, “reining in the ways the powerful search engine provides search results to Ohioans.”

According to the news release, Ohio is the first state in the country to bring such a lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed in Delaware County Common Pleas Court. It asserts two causes of action against Google:

It seeks a legal declaration that Google is a common carrier (or public utility) subject to proper government regulation.

It says Google has a duty to offer sources or competitors rights equal to its own, meaning it should not prioritize the placement of its own products, services, and websites on search results pages. Those equal rights should extend to advertisements, enhancements, knowledge boxes, integrated specialized searches, direct answers and other features.

The Columbus Dispatch posted a statement from Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost:

“Google uses its dominance of internet search to steer Ohioan’s to Google’s own products – that’s discriminatory and anti-competitive,” Yost said in a statement. “When you own the railroad or the electric company or the cellphone tower, you have to treat everyone the same and give everybody access.”

The lawsuit, which The Columbus Dispatch embedded into their article, does not seek monetary damages.

Google also provided a statement to The Columbus Dispatch. “Ohioans simply don’t want the government to run Google like a gas or electric company,” the company said in a statement. “This lawsuit has no basis in fact or law and we’ll defend ourselves against it in court.”

Personally, I find this lawsuit interesting because of its unique interpretation of Google as a public utility – beholden to all the rules and regulations that other public utilities are. I’ve no idea how this court case will end up. However, if Ohio Attorney Dave Yost wins, it could set a very interesting precedent for other states to file similar lawsuits.