- Associated Press - Friday, May 9, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The ridesharing company Lyft is continuing its offer of free services in Omaha and Lincoln as it talks to state regulators.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission issued letters last month to Lyft and its competitor Uber that said they’d need the commission’s permission to offer services in Nebraska. The two San Francisco companies use smartphone applications to link motorists and people who would pay for rides.

Lyft avoided immediate commission action by offering free services starting April 24 as part of its introductory offer in the state. The free services are continuing for now, past their scheduled end Thursday.

“The Pioneer program that allows new passengers to receive two weeks of free rides is still in effect, and we have not determined an end date to the program in Nebraska,” Lyft spokeswoman Paige Thelen said in an email. “We will continue to work with local stakeholders to reach a solution that prioritizes public safety, protects consumer choice and allows ridesharing to thrive.”

Public Service Commission transportation director Mark Breiner has declined to comment about commission investigations and won’t say what might happen to Lyft drivers once the free services are over.

State Sen. Heath Mello said he’s talked to state regulators and Lyft attorneys while looking for a solution.

“Sometimes, existing laws need to modernize when you have new technologies and innovations that come into play in the sharing economy,” Mello told the Omaha World-Herald.

He said Lyft’s attorneys maintain that its services aren’t governed by state laws regarding for-hire transportation.

Uber has said it’s not a transportation provider either. Its Midwest general manager, Chris Nakutis, compared ridesharing to PayPal, which charges a fee to facilitate online purchases.

Uber began offering its Nebraska operation this week by also offering free services.

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