By Vittorio Hernandez

Former Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt will appear before the Senate Judiciary anti-trust committee which is investigating the search engine firms for alleged abuse of power.

Prior to his Senate appearance, Schmidt talked with members of the Judiciary committee to convince them that Google is not breaching the U.S. anti-trust laws.

The probe, initiated in April by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission as part of a broad anti-trust investigation into Google's dominance of the Internet-search industry, is the result of Google's foray into other businesses in the cyber world.

Critics said because of Google's influence on what Internet users could and could not find on the search site, it may have been providing its other businesses such as mapping, travel and shopping better placement in search results.

The playing field is not level for smaller firms and consumers don't necessarily get the best results when they perform Google searches.

In its defense, Google said surfers are free to shift to other search engines if they are not satisfied with the results in Google and it places its own businesses higher to provide net searchers the answer they need immediately.

However, competitors such as travel search site Expedia pointed out that Google is pushing entire categories of successful popular sites at the bottom of search results.

Besides Schmidt, also set to appear before the senate hearing on Wednesday are shopping comparison site Nextag Chief Executive Jeff Katz, user review site Yelp co-founder and chief executive Jeremy Stoppelman and Google counsel Susan Creighton.

The European Union is also looking into Google's alleged anti-trust practices.

Observers said the scope of FTC's investigation of Google is similar to the Department of Justice's probe into Microsoft 10 years ago.


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