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NYC Officials Want ‘Veto Authority’ Over Ridesharing Apps

New York City is considering imposing stricter requirements on ridesharing apps, prompting an outcry from Internet companies who fear the new rules will stifle innovation.

“The growth in the use of smartphones and apps has created new ways of obtaining for-hire transportation,” but has also “resulted in unanticipated problems,” the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) claims in a public hearing notice about the proposed rules.

Noting that up to 42 percent of for-hire-vehicles (FHV’s) in the city can be booked through any one of 75 different smartphone apps, the TLC asserts that, “This wide array of options has resulted in varying levels of compliance with safety, accessibility, and price transparency requirements.”

To impose uniformity among the various platforms, the agency is looking to impose strict licensing requirements for mobile dispatching apps and establish a new department to oversee licensure. (RELATED: Experts at Odds Over Whether to Regulate Ridesharing or Deregulate Taxis)

However, while the new rules are ostensibly intended to benefit consumers, they are attracting opposition from a coalition of tech companies that claims they would have just the opposite effect, depriving New York residents of access to future improvements in the technology.

The Internet Association, which represents companies like Google, Facebook, and Uber, sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday arguing that the proposal “appears to indicate a significant departure from this administration’s policy of encouraging innovation, one that risks undermining New York’s progress and status as a global leader.”

The coalition members object to the idea of giving “veto authority over software updates” to an agency with no technological expertise, explaining that, “we are gravely concerned by the unprecedented decision to subject software available around the world to pre-release review by a city agency.” (RELATED: Georgia’s War on Uber and Other Rideshare Services)

“Internet companies should not have to ask government for permission to innovate,” Internet Association President and CEO Michael Beckerman said in a press release. “The Big Apple should maintain its current policies supporting ‘permissionless’ versus ‘permission slip’ innovation.”

The letter is also critical of “an arbitrary $1,000 fee on any developer wanting to offer their software,” saying that while the cost might be bearable for established players, it would impose excessive burdens on new entrants. (RELATED: Broken Windows and Broken Liberal Philosophies in New York City)

The Association concludes by urging Mayor De Blasio to reconsider the proposed rules, arguing that he must choose “whether to encourage and harness developments that create more opportunity for more New Yorkers, or to slow the pace of progress and discourage investment in our city.”

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