Google's dominance of the Internet-search industry is being considered for a broad antitrust investigation by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, who's awaiting a decision by the Justice Department on whether it'll challenge Google's planned acquisition of ITA Software Inc. as a threat to competition in the travel-information search business, before proceeding with any probe, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter is still confidential.
An FTC investigation of Google, the world's most popular search engine, "could be on par" with the scope of the Justice Department's probe of Microsoft. a decade ago, said Keith Hylton, an antitrust law professor at Boston University School of Law. Google "could fight the FTC, but that's going to cost a lot of money and time."
The Justice Department may soon announce its decision on Google's purchase of ITA, said the people familiar with the matter.
FTC Commissioner Thomas Rosch said in an interview last month he supported a probe of the dominant players in the Internet-search industry, without specifying which companies. Rosch, one of two Republicans on the five-member commission, is the only commissioner to say publicly that such an investigation is in order.
If consumers don't like what the company is doing, they can switch to another search engine, said Adam Kovacevich, a Google spokesman.
"Since competition is one click away on the Internet, we work hard to put our users' interests first and give them the best, most relevant answers to their queries,' he said in an e- mail. "We built Google for users, not websites."