Another inauguration took place in Washington this week Google Inc officially became a political power player. The Internet giant is poised to capitalise on its backing of President Obama and pursue its agenda in the nations capital.
Googles executives and employees overwhelmingly supported Obamas candidacy,contributing more money than all but three companies or universities. And only DreamWorks employees gave more toward inauguration festivities.
Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt campaigned for Obama and was one of four Googlers on his transition team. He is now as likely as any corporate chieftain to get his calls to the White House returned.
At the top of the companys policy priorities are two that consumer advocates champion. First,it wants to expand high-speed Internet access so people can use its services more often. It also is pushing for so-called network neutrality: prohibitions on telecommunications companies charging websites for faster delivery of content.
Google is not just a benign corporate entity. It has a variety of special interests, said Jeff Chester,the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy,who has sparred with Google over data-privacy issues. Theyre in a great position to push their agenda through with the support of the President and the Democrats in Congress.
But Googles newfound political ties heighten concerns about its grip on the online advertising market. Competitors worry about Googles close relationship with the Obama administration,said Bill Whalen,a research fellow at Stanford Universitys Hoover Institution.
The question going forward is: Will Google turn into just another business entity looking for favours in Washington,or will it manage to keep the 767 flying at 30,000 feet above the political din? he said.
Google says the main reason it has improved its standing in Washington is that Obamas tech priorities mirror its own. He has endorsed network neutrality. His technology agenda also calls for expanding broadband Internet access to rural areas and appointing the first government-wide chief technology officer. This administration is more focused on science and technology, Schmidt said in an interview.
Gigi Sohn,president of Public Knowledge,a digital rights group that has worked with Google to advance network neutrality,said: They can put things on the radar screen that might not otherwise be on the radar screen… but its a long way from being on the radar screen to being put into law, she said.