Google Antitrust Probe Set to Kick off

Eric Schmidt Google CEO
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Google CEO, Dr. Eric Schmidt gestures during his keynote speech at the 50th edition of "IFA" in Berlin, September 7, 2010. IFA, the world's largest consumer electronics and home appliances runs from September 3 to 8, 2010.

The FTC plans to investigate the online search giant's market power and serve the company with civil subpoenas.

NEW YORK - The Federal Trade Commission is poised to serve Google with civil subpoenas, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing people familiar with the situation.

It said the move signals the start of a formal antitrust investigation into whether the Internet search giant has abused its dominance online.

The news comes after Bloomberg News reported that Google's reluctance to send a top executive to provide testimony to a Senate panel probing its market power has also prompted threats of subpoenas for CEO Larry Page and chairman Eric Schmidt.

While Google has dealt with antitrust reviews tied to acquisitions before, the new FTV probe will examine more fundamental issues, such as whether the search giant "unfairly channels users to its own growing network of services at the expense of rivals'," the Journal said.

The five-member FTC is preparing to send Google  formal demands for information within days, according to the paper.

Late last year, the European Commission already opened a probe into allegations that Google has violated European competition laws.

eMarketer estimates net U.S. search advertising revenue at Google will grow 38.9 percent to $10.92 billion in 2011. That would help push Google's share of overall U.S. search revenues to 75.9 percent this year, up from a 73.6 percent share in 2010.