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Google Ready to Pursue Its Agenda in Washington

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Reporting from Washington -- Another inauguration took place in Washington this week -- Google Inc. officially became a political power player.

The executives and employees of Google Inc., whose headquarters is in Mountain View, Ca., overwhelmingly supported Obama's candidacy. Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt is now as likely as any corporate chieftain to get his calls to the White House returned. Its employees supported Obama, and four Googlers served on his transition team. Now the Internet giant hopes to win support for network neutrality and expanding high-speed Internet access.

Google is not just a benign corporate entity. It has a variety of special interests,", who has sparred with Google over data-privacy issues. “They're in a great position to push their agenda through with the support of the president and the Democrats in Congress.
Jeff Chester--executive director Center for Digital Democracy

At the top of the company's policy priorities are two that consumer advocates largely champion. First, it wants to expand high-speed Internet access so people can use its Web services more often. It also is pushing for so-called network neutrality: prohibitions on telecommunications companies charging websites for faster delivery of their content.

But Google's newfound political ties heighten concerns about its grip on the online advertising market. The company could play better defense against strong competitors trying to curb its influence. Last fall, Justice Department lawyers, who had been lobbied heavily by Microsoft Corp. and large telecommunications companies, were about to sue Google on antitrust grounds. They wanted to block its controversial search- advertising partnership with Yahoo Inc., but Google abandoned the deal rather than fight in court. Competitors worry about Google's close relationship with the Obama administration, said Bill Whalen, a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. “The question going forward is: Will Google turn into just another business entity looking for favors in Washington, or will it manage to keep the 767 flying at 30,000 feet above the political din?" he said, a reference to the Google founders' private plane.

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