Owners of the Amazon Kindle book reader know that since its launch in 2007, the e-book platform has had a Web browser built-in and offered free browsing over the free 3G network that comes with the Kindle models equipped for it. Well, the free ride is over. Amazon has imposed a bandwidth limit on many users and will likely roll it out over the entire network (if they haven’t already) in order to curb extensive use of their 3G.
The limit in some areas is as low as 50 megabytes per month. Most users who hit their bandwidth cap are being warned and given a grace period of 24 hours so they do not lose whatever they were doing. For most, though, this means the days of downloading, streaming and watching free content online via the Kindle are over.
The network caps were started in early July in areas where 3G access is at a premium. Cities like New York, Ottawa, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, etc. seem to have seen the caps first, but its since rolled out to most Kindle users in North America. Amazon has not made a public statement about the caps, but their release of the fully-blocked Kindle Touch late last year was a precursor to this coming restraint.
In fact, Amazon has had a bandwidth limitation policy in place since before the K3 launched and is outlined on the K3′s support page, which all service complaints regarding the restrictions are being referred to. It reads:
The Experimental Web Browser is currently only available for some customers outside of the United States and may be limited to 50MB of browsing over 3G per month. This limit does not apply when customers are browsing over Wi-Fi.
While rumors are that the posted work-around/hack to gain access to the free Amazon 3G network via your laptop (spread around last February) are to blame for the limits, most believe that this hack has not been heavily used. More likely is the idea that Amazon is beginning to see profit losses from the heavy use of the 3G they pay to access for their customers.
Likely, it’s part of an overall Amazon marketing strategy. Allowing unlimited use early on was a small, but significant selling point for many of their customers. Eventually, though, the costs associated with this unlimited network access would become unsustainable and Amazon would have to enforce the limits that have been in place, but not enforced.
In the short-term, this will probably mean some bad publicity for Amazon on Web forums and blogs, but over time, it’s probably not going to be a serious issue for the e-commerce giant.