According to a post over on DSLReports, Amazon and AT&T are now locking down free Internet access on old Kindle models so that users can only visit Amazon.com, Wikipedia, and the Kindle store after they hit a fixed monthly cap. No more browsing the wider web, or hacking Kindle hardware to create a free-riding mobile hotspot off of Amazon’s Whispernet service.
I’ve always been fascinated by the Whispernet model where Amazon bundles free Internet service with its e-reading hardware. However, the primary purpose behind Whispernet has always been to give users anytime/anywhere access to books, not to the Internet at large. While unrestricted access would be nice, the bundling model unfortunately doesn’t scale if users can chew up 3G bandwidth at will.
DSLReports cites a further post on the MobileRead forums suggesting that some users are now getting Kindle warning alerts when they skate past 50 MB in a single month. It’s not clear yet if the warnings are only popping up outside the U.S. This comes from one user in Canada:
I was using the browser when it popped up a message to say that I’d hit my 50 MB monthly limit of 3G Web access on my Kindle 3G. When I clicked the ‘OK’ button (which was my only choice, really), I got a second message saying that I’d have 24 hours of grace to continue to use 3G for Web browsing, but that after that I could use 3G only for visiting Amazon.com, Wikipedia, and the Kindle Store. Otherwise I will be obligated to use Wi-Fi.
Personally, I can’t imagine relying on Kindle Whispernet for regular web browsing given the Kindle’s user interface, but clearly some people do. A free hotspot on the other hand is wildly appealing. Too bad that’s like asking for a free lunch. You know that eventually the bill will come due.