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Mobile Giants Tag-Team 4G in UK

UK-based Vodafone and Spain-based Telefonica announced plans Thursday to create a single shared grid in Great Britain, according to The Telegraph.

The two companies said that by combining their network infrastructure, they will be able to cover 98 percent of the population by 2015. The agreement is also expected to speed up the availability of 4G service in the UK, according to Reuters.

Cutting costs are a key component to Vodafone and Telefonica teaming up, according to The Telegraph. Telefonica in particular has been getting hammered lately. The company announced in May that first-quarter profit was down 54 percent, and earlier this week it said that it was considering an IPO of a 20 percent stake in its German branch, 02 Germany.

EU Looks at Web Restrictions

The European Union is debating how much its should intervene when Internet service providers restrict Web access, according to The New York Times.

The EU should have more transparent terms for ISP practices, European Commissioner for Telecommunications Neelie Kroes said last month. That announcement came on the heels of a European Commission report that stated such restrictions affect 20 percent of Europe’s consumers; that number was as high as 95 percent in some smaller EU countries.

A common example — and one used in the Times’ article — is Skype. Mobile operators often restrict access to Skype so as to force consumers to pay for calls.

Some are pushing for a “neutral” approach that would prohibit such practices. Last November, European members of parliament urged ISPs to be totally neutral to ensure access and competition. Kroes did not go that far in statements last week, but she is nonetheless pushing for clearer guidelines that would clarify what exactly Europe’s regulations are.

The Netherlands passed the EU’s first net neutrality law in May. Ironically, the Netherlands ordered ISPs to block file-sharing site The Pirate Bay the very next day.

The Tube Gets WiFi

A pair of underground stations in The Tube, London’s subway system, are now equipped with WiFi service, according to ZDNet UK.

The service is sponsored by Virgin Media, which provides Internet service in the UK.

London mayor Boris Johnson said that WiFi on The Tube is needed to ensure that London remained “Europe’s leading digital city.”

Two stations went live Thursday, and two more are expected to launch Friday. Virgin Media plans to have 82 WiFi stations up and running by the end of July and a total of 120 by the end of 2012.

The service will remain free throughout the summer. After that, it is expected that Virgin Media subscribers will continue to have free access, while non-Virgin users will have a pay-as-you-go option.

Germans Facing Facebook Credit Checks

German company SCHUFA, which analyzes people’s creditworthiness, plans to begin using Facebook in its evaluations, according to an article from German outlet Der Spiegel.

SCHUFA, or Schufa Holding, has credit records for more than 66 million Germans — more than three-quarters of the country. The records contain information on bank accounts, credit cards, mobile phone contracts, leasing contracts and more. It uses this information to issue credit reports.

Soon, however, SCHUFA could be adding Facebook to this list of criteria. The company has instructed the Hasso Plattner Institute at the University of Potsdam to develop proposals for using information derived from Facebook, according to Der Spiegel. SCHUFA could then combine private and public data when rendering credit evaluations.

Privacy advocates have already objected, but SCHUFA maintains that its plans are consistent with German law.

Tech Trek is a blog that looks at tech news from around the world. David Vranicar is a freelance journalist currently living in the Netherlands. His ECT News Network archive, with links to articles and podcasts, is available here. You can email him at [email protected]

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