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Our family lives in the middle of nowhere, so the only high-speed internet available is Verizon's 3G mobile broadband. We have the highest package available, yet continually go over the 10GB limit and get charged $10 every 1GB we go over. We run a business from home, so stopping when we hit the limit is not an option.

I've found the majority of connections are to Google, Microsoft, Akamai, Facebook, and other web service companies (mainly google). I know these are harmless connections, but when it costs money for them to monitor our web activity it becomes a serious problem.

Here's some things I've done, but I'm sure there's something else that could help before blocking a huge set of IP ranges:

  • stopped using windows (on my machine)
  • use MVPS host file on all computers
  • use firefox on all computers (with don't track me option)
  • ad block plugin on all browsers
  • blocking google updates
  • blocking windows updates
  • block images in browsers (when possible)
  • use comodo firewall (paranoia-level style of blocking..)
  • virus-free computers with ESET NOD32
  • bought router and installed dd-wrt in attempt to block connections more diligently (and throttle bandwidth if it comes to that)

Anything I'm missing? I know Google analytics is on almost all websites, as well as FB like buttons but I would like to be able to stop these connections without blocking use of google services like gmail, etc.

Any ideas?


Just a little update: ultrasawblade, your Noscript suggestion was worth it's weight in gold; quite literally! We've decreased our usage considerably by applying strict filtering rules on everyone's computer. (Don't want to speak too soon but it's cut usage by almost 150-200%, so I definitely owe you one ultrasawblade) Also, an unintended, yet positive effect on bandwidth, has been disposing of Google Chrome (which was still being used apparently) to use the plugin, as it's auto-update and tracking features were consuming obscene amounts of bandwidth (as well as phoning home a lot more than realized).

I've also personally started using mobile versions of websites using lupincho's suggestion of the User Agent Switcher plugin, and I'll admit it's a lot better than text-only browsing. I'm also testing out BJ292's BetterCache plugin, and will be investigating the use of squid or some other form of permanent stylesheet/image/element caching, as it seems browsers don't do this correctly anymore? I've also started using the Ghostery and RequestPolicy plugins, though their features overlap and are conflicting in most cases.

As for Akamai, apparently they were bought by Verizon, so there may be no escape from their CDN, but will soon experiment by blocking known IP ranges. Am also going to setup a server at a friends house in the city, and will attempt to download and update by proxy if at all possible.

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I should add that no one is downloading, viewing videos, or any other bandwidth hogging activity. Just web browsing, and usually only a handful of websites. –  binarybunny Apr 6 '12 at 2:12
    
Have done some querying, and am going to try to install pixelserv on the dd-wrt router to block DNS requests to known ad-serving websites (though unsure it will fix my problem entirely). lifehacker.com/5680670/… –  binarybunny Apr 6 '12 at 2:27
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4 Answers 4

Couple more things I can think of:

  • I would use the NoScript add on with Firefox - this blocks a lot of ads and unecessary flash applets from loading/running/downloading in background and you can enable such applets when needed. Worth it for the browser speed up alone.
  • Use Facebook on a mobile device's app, such as an iPad. Mobile apps use less bandwidth.
  • Whitelist Javascript only on sites you use/trust.
  • Look at your Firefox addons for anything that might be doing things in the background.
  • Look in your Add/Remove Programs or Programs and Features for something called "Akamai Accelerated Network" or similar - it "accelerates" things by having your computer participate in a peer-to-peer network and using your machine to transferring data for others. Good if you have the bandwidth to spare but it sounds like you don't.
  • Disable the BITS service in the Administrative Tools -> Services control panel.
  • Power off your 3G modem when you are not using it.
  • If a cheap dial-up provider ($10/mo, $4/mo?) is available in your area, perhaps you can use a second computer connected to it to perform low-bandwith tasks and keep your 3G usage lower.

It is possible to use a Web proxy to only allow Web access to whitelisted domains. I've used squid on Linux with some success (and since this is a caching proxy it would further save your bandwidth) but I don't immediately know of an easy "turnkey" solution although I'm sure they are out there.

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You could also add to that list: disabling firefox prefetching. –  resmon6 Apr 6 '12 at 12:12
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You could install a desktop firewall like ZoneAlarm so that you get notified whenever some program (like iTunes, VLC, Notepad++...) wants to check for a new release and prevent it from self-updating.

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BetterCache is a firefox plugin that gives you better control over content caching. This may provide some benefit.

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Let me add an unorthodox idea -- use a Firefox addon to change the user agent to a mobile browser; e.g. User Agent Switcher, this would result in mobile site versions served at popular websites and it would reduce the bandwidth used (ultrasawblade suggested using a real mobile device).

Virgin Mobile has a prepaid plan that for $50/mo that has 2.5GB/mo at 3G speeds and unlimited internet at lower speeds after that (check the exact terms though, there may be other limitations). I think it uses Sprint's network, check if you have coverage. That may or may not be a good deal depending on how much more than 10GB you use.

Another idea -- use RSS reader for sites that have RSS or Atom feeds. This way you won't have to download the complete versions of all articles or huge chunks of them, just the titles and small descriptions. Then download the full versions only of articles that you care about.

In addition, as you said adblock would help: Adblock Plus could also reduce the ads, but the solution on the router would work too.

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