Thursday, 26 July 2012

RIP Free Cellular Web Access

And A Mystery Solved Thanks To XKCD

My original Amazon Kindle, with its free global access to 3G networks and its experimental browser, was a Christmas gift from my wife, having been inspired by my apparent inability to organise my dead tree storage. This browser uses the same connection that all 3G-equipped Kindles use to download books via Amazon's Whispernet, and until recently, it offered access to as much of the world wide web as you could take. Usually, that wasn't much. The browser renders like treacle, while pages don't look terrific on the monochrome, electronic ink display.

But it was functional, and quite useful on continental holidays and other occasions when we found ourselves temporarily without WiFi access. Just as recently as, well, earlier this very month, I had cause to be grateful for Linda's decisions (-; in both cases, against my better judgement ;-) to buy me (a) a Kindle, (b) with 3G connectivity. Sitting in the garden outside our French gîte, I reached the end of my chosen holiday read (a pulpwood edition of The Hunger Games) and wanted immediately to download its sequels, whilst simultaneously checking out a few blog updates.

That was then. Today, as I read on El Reg, Amazon have started exercising their reserved, small-print right, to throttle this free 3G access at just 50MB per month. Obviously having learned from both the Sony experience and their own previous missteps, they are following this course in preference to just switching off free 3G access altogether.


There still remains a mystery in the detail. This post on the MobileRead forum reports the cutoff message, followed by another:
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, Wikipedia, and the Kindle Store.
Certainly, retaining free access to both Amazon and the Kindle Store makes commercial sense. But why should Wikipedia be particularly exempted?

That's when I remembered the above XKCD cartoon, from 3½ years ago. Click through for the full version. Although the answer isn't in the printed cartoon itself, it's in Randall Munroe's floating text that appears when you hover over it:
I'm happy with my Kindle 2 so far, but if they cut off the free Wikipedia browsing, I plan to show up drunk on Jeff Bezos's lawn and refuse to leave.

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