Mar 21 2010

Google: The American National Champion

Google has been making headlines in almost every arena over the last couple years.  From technology to philanthropy to infrastructure to research to international politics, the Mountain View, CA, company is managing to impact nearly every American in some way and is taking on the role of national champion to spread its influence far and abroad.

I first read about the concept of the national champion in Marhsall I. Goldman’s excellent book, Petrostate: Putin, Power, and the New Russia.  The national champion is primarily a tool of economic imperialism, or directly utilising domestic markets to spread national ideals and influence.  Specifically, the national champion itself is a corporate entity being used by the national government to apply pressure or exert influence beyond the state’s native sphere.  A prime example (provided by Goldman) is Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled energy giant that manages to strong-arm those nations dependent on Russian energy trade.

While Google is far from state-controlled, its own ideals and policies are very much in line with those of the Federal Communications Commission – and by proxy, the U.S. Federal government.  Chief among the FCC’s goals where the great interwebs and their associated issues are concerned is the preservation of the open internet and consumers’ “freedom to communicate and innovate without permission.”  The FCC has set up a website detailing its vision of the open internet where it lists some “high-level rules” it would like to establish to ensure that broadband providers:

  • don’t block consumers from accessing the content and applications of their choice
  • don’t deprive consumers of their entitlement to competition
  • don’t discriminate against or in favor of traffic
  • disclose basic information about broadband service

In addition, the FCC maintains another website dedicated to its national broadband plan (which I discussed in Every Home Connected), wherein it outlines six goals to be addressed in advancing the American population in the digital age.  Two of these goals are particularly pertinent to this discussion:

  • Goal 1: At least 100 million U.S. homes should have affordable access to actual download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and actual upload speeds of at least 50 megabits per second.
  • Goal 6: To ensure that America leads in the clean energy economy, every American should be able to use broadband to track and manage their real-time energy consumption.

Google directly addresses these FCC goals with two programs:

  • Google Fiber: in hopes to make Internet access better and faster for everyone[, Google] plan[s] to test ultra-high speed broadband networks in one or more trial locations across the country.
  • Google PowerMeter: free software tool that allows you to view your home’s energy consumption from your personalized iGoogle homepage [in order to] help you to save money and use less electricity.

And demonstrates its commitment to the aforementioned open internet cause through:

  • the current stand-off with China in order to uncensor search results
  • the current European Union court battle to preserve freedom of online ad display
  • its vast library of open source coding available through Google’s Open Source Programs Office and showcased at the annual Google Summer of Code
  • its own use of open source coding for its Android mobile phone operating system
  • its open and active support of the open source HTML5 web standard

Note: “Open Source” is the practice of releasing and sharing the source materials for an application’s end product so that anyone can learn from it, build upon it, and connect with it.

In Google We Trust by sonicbloom

In the sense that Google as a corporate entity works to advance the principals and interests of the United States Federal government both at home and abroad, Google is indeed a national champion.  Granted, the government has no controlling stake in Google, nor has it placed any officials or cronies in the upper echelons of Google’s hierarchy.  But perhaps that serves to make Google even more of an American national champion – it serves the state’s interests through altruistic idealism and the democratic spirit more than any underhanded coercion.

What do you think of Google’s activity in domestic development and foreign politics?  What other companies can you think of that serve the state’s interests?

Comment and share to keep the discussion going.  And subscribe via Email or by RSS if you like this blog!

I must again recommend Petrostate: Putin, Power, and the New Russia by Marshall I. Goldman.  I greatly enjoyed this book on the energy industry in general and its development through Russian and Soviet history.  You’ll learn tons about the sources of energy, from where they come, how they’re traded, and how this affects the political sphere.  It’s written well, and you can read it fairly quickly – and then pass it along!

Photo credits: Gladiators Wear Slips by manolinlao
Google San Fransicso by Laughing Squid


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