Charleston tech execs: Uber ban sends ‘terrible message’ about South Carolina

Uber began operating in South Carolina in July, forcing state and local officials to figure out how to regulate the app-based service.

The top executives at four Charleston-based technology firms are urging the state Public Service Commission to support Uber and drop its recent ban on the ride-hailing business.

In a letter dated Jan. 19, the CEOs of PeopleMatter, BoomTown, Blue Acorn and Advantage Media said the board’s decision to halt the app-based service “without public input and allowing Uber to put forth their case is shocking and sends a terrible message to the business community here in the state, future companies that may relocate here, and consumers. The message you are sending is South Carolina is ‘Closed for Business.’”

The letter was addressed to all seven commissioners.

“As a state that prides itself as being ‘open for business” and placing a huge emphasis on being a business friendly environment, the recent decision to halt the ridesharing app Uber was a terrible message you sent that is counter to our state’s progressive thinking,” according to the letter. “We call on you to immediately restore ridesharing and specifically support Uber in our state.”

The letter also was addressed to Gov. Nikki Haley, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and Dukes Scott of the S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff, which represents the public in state regulatory matters.

The CEOs noted that Charleston is one of the fastest-growing regions in country.

“Our mass transit in the area and the current infrastructure of our roads is inadequate for the future growth we have coming our way,” they wrote. “Ridesharing apps like Uber are something the state desperately needs to support the growth, safety of transportation, and options for consumers. Ridesharing will help ease some of the pressure our road infrastructure is feeling today.”

Uber’s free-lance drivers have been operating in Charleston and three other South Carolina metro areas in July, setting off a scramble at state and local levels about how to regulate the unlicensed service.

Taxicab operators have complained that Uber has a major advantage over them because it doesn’t have to comply same rules as they do — at least not yet.

The CEOS said the “taxi industry will continue to thrive right alongside of Uber just as it has in numerous cities throughout the United States.”

Sign up for our new business newsletter

We're starting a weekly newsletter about the business stories that are shaping Charleston and South Carolina. Get ahead with us - it's free.

The PSC has rescheduled a hearing about Uber’s request for a state license for Feb. 23 in Columbia. The original hearing was set for Jan. 26, but the commission canceled it last week because of issues about the exchange of information. It ordered the surprise statewide ban on Uber the next day.

Raiser LLC, the operator of the Uber app, began the licensing process in South Carolina in September. It is asking the PSC to reconsider its cease-and-desist order.

Municipalities are approaching the Uber ban differently. The city of Charleston, for instance, is in a “nonenforcement phase” while officials craft local rules to regulate the service, a police spokesman said Thursday.

On the other hand, North Charleston plans to ticket Uber drivers is they are caught operating city limits, a law enforcement spokesman said.

The four CEOs who signed the letter are Nate DaPore of PeopleMatter, Grier Allen of BoomTown, Kevin Eichelberger of Blue Acorn and Adam Witty of Advantage Media.