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Ohio Lawsuit Argues Google Should Be Treated As A Public Utility

Ohio’s attorney general filed a lawsuit Tuesday asking for a court declaration classifying tech giant Google as a public utility.

The state’s attorney general, Dave Yost, argued Google’s size, complexity, and market dominance made the tech company a public utility or common carrier, similar to a railroad or electric company.

“A corporation’s services subjects those services to public utility or common carrier status when it serves a substantial part of the public in a way that makes its methods of operations a matter of public concern, welfare, and interest,” Yost’s office wrote in the complaint.

Yost then argued Google’s prioritization of its own goods and services was in breach of its duties as a common carrier, and harmful to consumers.

“When you own the railroad or the electric company or the cellphone tower, you have to treat everyone the same and give everybody access,” Yost said in a press release Tuesday. “Ohioans are harmed by Google because they cannot make the best choices if they don’t get all of the information.”

The lawsuit, filed in the Delaware County Court, seeks to declare Google a public utility. If regulated as such, the company would not be permitted to prioritize its own services in search results.

Google told the Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement that its policies do not disadvantage consumers.

“This lawsuit has no basis in fact or law and we’ll defend ourselves against it in court,” the spokesperson said. “AG Yost’s lawsuit would make Google Search results worse and make it harder for small businesses to connect directly with customers.”

The spokesperson also denied Google Search could reasonably be classified as a common carrier.

The complaint is the latest in a series of suits targeting Google’s anti-competitive practices. 38 states filed an antitrust lawsuit against the company in December, while another suit in March focused on Google’s anti-competitive advertising policies.

Ohio is the first state asking for a court declaration that Google is a common carrier.

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