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State reverses ban on Uber car service ordering app

State officials have reversed a ban on Uber, a smartphone app that consumers can use to order and track livery car services, saying on Wednesday evening that the service “is currently not out of compliance with state law” despite the earlier decision prohibiting its use.

The service from San Francisco-based Uber Technology Inc. was banned over the company’s use of GPS technology to calculate fares, state officials said.

In an Aug. 1 letter, the Massachusetts Division of Standards informed Uber that since there were no established standards for using devices such as smartphones to measure taxi fees, it would have to stop using its app in the state.


But on Wednesday, division officials said that they have since determined that “this device is already being evaluated for certification by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Because of this, the Division will issue an operating certificate to Uber.”

The state’s original decision to ban Uber met with much outcry, causing a flurry of protests on Twitter. Brendan Ryan, a spokesman for Governor Deval Patrick, indicated in a tweet on Wednesday that the administration may have stepped in to overturn the Uber ban: “With all @massgovernor has done for the innovation economy, we’re not shutting down @uber_bos. Working on a swift resolution.”

The governor’s office did not immediately return a call for additional comment on Wednesday. But Patrick himself tweeted on Wednesday, writing, “Problem solved. @Uber_BOS is all set. Thx for your patience.”

Uber launched its smartphone car service in Boston last October. At the time, Globe columnist Scott Kirsner previewed the app, which allows users to request a town car service — and pay for it — using a smartphone.

“For livery drivers, it’s a way to fill in extra work at times when they might otherwise be sitting around,” Kirsner wrote. “And for consumers, it’s a way to get a ride in a car that’s more spacious and better-maintained than your typical cab. And the Uber app also provides better information about when exactly you’ll be picked up.”


After the ban was lifted, Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick said in an e-mail to the Globe that “Governor Patrick and his team really stepped up to support innovation in the Commonwealth.”

The service also ran afoul of officials in Washington, D.C., where the taxi commission unsuccessfully attempted to ban Uber because its fee structure wasn’t in line with city ordinances.

Michael B. Farrell can be reached at michael.farrell@globe.com.