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Does Google Harm Minority-Owned Businesses?
The impact of federal telecommunications policies on minority enterprises is at issue before the FCC. There are concerns that the Commission's net neutrality proceeding may harm civil rights. A leading watchdog organization explained that "if not carefully drafted, net neutrality rules could have the unintended effect of locking current disparities in place for years to come, thereby consigning minorities to a permanent digital underclass."

The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, representing 16 national organizations, also raises the provocative issue of whether net neutrality requirements should be applied to search engines. The NGO states that they "are concerned about reports that Google is 'heavily biased towards established brands' and erects 'significant barrier[s] to new entrants and inevitably suppress[es] innovation.'"

MMTC warns that this "trend could have a particularly harmful impact on minority-owned businesses.... Search engine practices that assign visibility to businesses based on wealth rather than merit would impose a classic cycle of invisibility to minority enterprises: without access to capital they cannot secure visibility; but without visibility they cannot secure access to capital. Thus, the National Organizations fear repetition... of the...early days of radio and television when the Commission...did nothing to ensure that minorities would have a fair shot to secure an opportunity to participate in these industries."

The watchdog states that, irrespective of the decision on imposing new net neutrality regulations, "the Commission should open a proceeding to consider the impact of search engine practices on small and minority businesses."

MMTC's concerns deserve study. The FCC, in conjunction with SBA and the Minority Business Development Agency, should undertake an inquiry - in adherence with the principles in President Obama's Open Government Directive and the standards set by the Data Quality Act, to assess whether search engine company practices inadvertently harm small and minority-owned businesses.

See MMTC comments

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