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Germany may soon begin regulating tech giants like utilities

Has Google reached the point where it needs to be regulated like a utility? At least one German governmental agency is considering that possibility. The Federal Cartel Office in that country has drawn up a 30-page document laying out alternatives if the tech giant is assessed as being too dominant in its market, according to a story yesterday in The Times of London. One of the possible alternatives reportedly mentioned in the document, notably in the area of search engine advertising, would be to treat the tech giant as the German government might treat an energy or water provider, as a regulated monopoly.

German officials are planning to clip the wings of technology giants such as Google through heavier regulation. According to a report in the Sunday Times, the country’s Federal Cartel Office would be given powers to curtail Google’s influence, were it decided that it had got too big for its boots. A document obtained by the newspaper says that under the new rules, technology companies would be treated and regulated like utilities such as electricity and water and subject to the same anti-competitive pricing laws governing their advertising. Proposals to legislate the internet as a utility are at the heart of the debate that’s under way in the US right now, where the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is coming under increasing pressure to classify ISPs as “Title II” utilities in order to protect net neutrality. In Europe, a commitment to net neutrality is already in place, and any German legislation would only serve to further solidify the country’s commitment to avoiding technology strangleholds.

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