Ohio’s attorney general, Dave Yost, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in pursuit of a novel effort to have Google declared a public utility and subject to government regulation.
The lawsuit, which was filed in a Delaware County, Ohio court, seeks to use a law that’s over a century old to regulate Google by applying a legal designation historically used for railroads, electricity and the telephone to the search engine.
“When you own the railroad or the electric company or the cellphone tower, you have to treat everyone the same and give everybody access,” Mr. Yost, a Republican, said in a statement. He added that Ohio was the first state to bring such a lawsuit against Google.
If Google were declared a so-called common carrier like a utility company, it would prevent the company from prioritizing its own products, services and websites in search results.
Google said it had none of the attributes of a common carrier that usually provide a standardized service for a fee using public assets, such as rights of way.
The “lawsuit would make Google Search results worse and make it harder for small businesses to connect directly with customers,” José Castañeda, a Google spokesman, said in a statement. “Ohioans simply don’t want the government to run Google like a gas or electric company. This lawsuit has no basis in fact or law and we’ll defend ourselves against it in court.”
Though the Ohio lawsuit is a stretch, there is a long history of government control of certain…