Written by: Michelle Sohn
Edited by: Olga Slobodyanyuk
Emulsion: A mixture of two or more liquids that are normally immiscible (nonmixable or unblendable).
I. UberX D.C. as Case Study in the Local Sharing Economy
If states are laboratories of democracy, then cities are the experiments. A new experiment has bubbled up in cities across the world, reaching a boiling point. The experiment? The local sharing economy. In May, amidst accusations that many of its users were violating New York’s illegal hotels law, Airbnb agreed to release redacted user data to New York’s Attorney General. In early June, the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle Services issued cease-and-desist letters to Uber and Lyft, ride-on-demand mobile app services. Weeks later, taxicabs caravanned into Washington, D.C. in protest, bringing traffic to a standstill. They demanded that the D.C. City Council also issue cease-and-desist letters. While Virginia has since lifted the ban on Uber and Lyft, other states and cities have continued to fight.
Heretofore, much of the debate has centered around two competing narratives: According to some, the Uber story (and more broadly, the local sharing economy story) is one that pits ham-handed regulation against innovation, protecting entrenched and outmoded industries. Others argue that the case against Uber is fair, and that to compete all services should play by the same rules. While politics and fears of disruption certainly play large roles in this regulatory drama, this comment points to a larger legal controversy at work—the increased emulsification of commercial and private uses. Although the focus of this comment is on Uber and D.C., the larger goal is to identify major regulatory tensions with the local sharing economy by examining actual and proposed municipal regulations and laws. (more…)