Obama and Google

Google Employees Visit The White House 427 Times During Obama’s Presidency, More Than Once Per Week

Google has a cozy relationship with the Obama Administration and frequently visits the White House. However, as Obama is blasted by cable companies over what they describe as a “Google policy” regarding a new initiative that will increase cable box competition in the pay-TV market, the close relationship between Google and the White House has been scrutinized.

Data outlining White House visits shows that Google met with 182 government officials at the White House since Obama was placed in office in 2009. During that time, the technology giant’s employees have made 427 visits to the White House, which is more than once per week. With weekly visits to the Obama Administration by Google lobbyists, some have questioned the integrity of a new policy aimed at opening up the market to providers outside of the cable network to offer “set-top cable boxes” directly to consumers getting rid of the “inferior or overpriced products” provided by cable companies.

The White House recently revealed an initiative to make “set-top cable boxes” open to competition. Obama is calling for the FCC to “allow for companies to create new, innovative, higher-quality, lower-cost products.” The move comes as the Obama Administration points out that cable companies have the “set-top cable box” market cornered. The boxes as described by the administration as “inferior or overpriced.” The White House claims that if the “set-top cable boxes” are open to competition, the consumer will be able to choose which product they want to purchase and will no longer be forced into leasing units for upwards of $1,000 over four years. Additionally, it is noted that the boxes will be higher quality as companies attempt to win their consumers with quality products.

“That’s why today the President announced that his Administration is calling on the FCC to open up set-top cable boxes to competition. This will allow for companies to create new, innovative, higher-quality, lower-cost products. Instead of spending nearly $1,000 over four years to lease a set of behind-the-times boxes, American families will have options to own a device for much less money that will integrate everything they want — including their cable or satellite content, as well as online streaming apps — in one, easier-to-use gadget.”

The Morning Consult notes that AT&T, a major cable and satellite television provider, is not happy about the White House’s decision to open the cable box to the market noting that the policy is a “Google policy.” AT&T says that unlike cable providers, outside parties like Google would not be bound by the same terms of programming contracts which will potentially affect advertising revenues for cable providers. It was also noted by AT&T vice president Stacy Fuller that the move would also put consumer privacy at risk.

“New set-top box manufacturers, empowered by the FCC rule change if it goes through, would not be bound by the same privacy rules that govern how internet service providers protect the privacy of consumer data. Third-party manufacturers are not bound by the terms of programming contracts that govern channel placement and advertising. Minority programmers are worried that existing advertising revenues will be significantly impacted by the Google proposal.”

Despite the conflict over the set-top boxes, it seems that Google has been working hard to ensure they have strong ties with the White House, and rightly so. As proven by the latest issue regarding the cable boxes, the move could prove profitable for the tech giant. Google has not denied their ties with the White House pointing out that “of course” they have had “many meetings” at the White House over the years.

The Intercept dug into White House data to determine exactly how close the company is to the Obama Administration by calculating how many meetings Google has had at the White House over the two term of Obama’s administration. Data reveals that Google is making trips to the White House on more than a weekly basis with the company having visited the White House on 427 occasions since 2009. During these visits, Google employees have met with 182 government officials.

[Image via AP Photo/Jeff Chiu]