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Managing Low Bandwidth Internet Connections.

This can be applied to manage a decent bandwidth that it has too many devices connecting, making it too slow for individual users and for controlling data charges.

The Problem:

There is arrogant assumption made by designers of electronic devices that there is unfettered access to the customer’s wide broadband internet connection at no cost.  Everything on your phone wants to talk to the internet, often background stuff, some of it just tracking you, some of it checking for updates and downloading them in the background.  This bloatware does very little for the end user. I have no idea what Skype does consuming bandwidth while you are not using it or just using it for messaging alone.

When working in remote locations with narrow bandwidth, or when using very expensive satellite communications, the expectation of infinite bandwidth is both catastrophic and expensive. Those using phones while roaming abroad have similar problems.

Smartphones are the worst at hidden background internet consumption.  The only concession they make is to default to taking updates when only on a wireless connection.  In remote locations that option is even worse; there is no phone connection and there may be a poor wireless internet connection in the workplace. On finding that Wifi the phone gets busy downloading updates that are not required now, and applications automatically login, grinding your tiny internet connection to a halt.  It is a real fiddle stopping the phones consuming bandwidth.

These are some ideas to restrict internet use. I have collected them through bitter experience.

To stop all connections and updates you need to use a proxy server and deny any route to the internet.  Ideas for that are here

Phones and tablets
  • Remove all but essential apps.
  • Install OsmAnd map navigation software.    This allows you to have predownloaded maps of whole countries, and you can be off line to use Navigation and maps. 10 maps are free. Better than Googlemaps anyway. Download before the trip.
  • Turn off sync in accounts and sync…. Make email connect when you want. Headers only.
  • Turn off DropBox One Drive of any uploading app
  • Google play: stop automatic updates.
  • Log out of Skype, which is vicious at consuming data, even in chat messaging mode. Avoid using it. 
  • Log out of Facebook when not using it.  Log out of everything! All chat services use when needed and then log out.  
  • Go into flight mode when not needing the internet.
  • Apps get permission to start and log in on restarting the phone. It is not easy, or even possible to stop this behavior (uninstalling works), so beware when switching phone back on. eveything will come back up.
  • The wireless connection can be set up to use a proxy server on your smart phone, not a direct route to the internet, and this controls much of the traffic, will speed things up but it needs some work on local network to set it up.
Windows PCs
  • Turn off Automatic updates (Windows will protest) but also look out for other software that seeks update and kill stop them doing so, such as antivirus programmes (more Windows protesting). Stop all startup update checkers via msconfig or by using a dedicated startup cleaner.  Don’t update anything. Windows 10 has an option to delay updates when connected to such a network but that does not stop other things from updating.
  • Windows 10 set the connection to "metered network"   Beware that Windows itself may ignore this for critcal updates and many apps ignore it.
  • Make sure DropBox or One drive and similar are off and do not log in.
  • With Gmail set the default to “basic html for slow connections”. 
  • Set browsers to use as default search engine.  Seems quicker and leaner than Google, I suppose because it is not doing tracking.
  • Email clients set to use IMAP not POP. Send email as text not html.
  • Turn off all messaging gtalk, skype etc
  • Set email clients such as outlook to only to download headers… then you click on the email you want to download that with the attachment.  Outlook falls over and seizes with very bad and slow connections, and you may have to install Thunderbird email client, or better SeaMonkey browser (do this before you set off) as it has thunderbird inside it.  
  • The (only?) nice thing about OLD Outlook (2007) was when attaching pictures you can set it to shrink them to a few kbytes on sending, on the fly. This is set by pulling down the insert dialog on Outlook. Tick the bottom box so that everytime you attach a picture the shrink file option comes up.  Outlook 10-16 the option is less obvious, and is not done within outlook. "Send to email"    Modern Office 2016 is typically modern by almost hiding and degrading a useful function as thought not to be needed.
  • Browser: Enable pop up blocker. Enable content control. Turn off animations (advanced) Increase the Browser’s Cache volume (advanced settings)
  • Text only browsing. Internet Explorer has setting option to turn off graphic. SeaMonkey from Mozilla and Firefox browser can be a text only browser, and switch it and off on the fly.  Graphics chew bandwidth. It is the words that give the information you are seeking.  Alas this solution is not perfect; badly designed web sites do not present an alphanumeric “alternative text” when showing a graphic icon as a press button, so sometimes you do not see any link to press in text only mode. You has to reload that one page with graphics on, but remember to turn the graphics option back off after.   Set a tab to about:config That is the place where this is set. Type in “permissions” in the search box at about:config page and click on permissions.default.image  . Click on permissions.default.image and set the number to 2 meaning graphics off.  When switching reset that to 1, graphics on, go back to your web page  tab, refresh the page (ctrl F5) do what is needed and to then go back to about:config tab to turn permissions.default.image back to 2 (graphics download off).
  • Turn off Pre-caching.  This pre-downloads links you may never click on and will consume data while you are reading a page.  In SeaMonkey or Firefox this is found in settings-advanced. Kill it
Proxy Server
If you are in charge of the local internet connection that is struggling with narrow bandwidth, then a caching proxy server between users and the internet is essential. This can stop a lot of leakage via other ports especially especially if the computers and phones no longer have a direct route to the internet gateway.  These caching servers can also block streaming and other bandwidth consuming sites, and a lot of web page material is kept local.  A login and timed sessions can be applied.  Local caching proxy server makes a huge difference.   Also the network may need a local updating service, such as windows update locally (WSUS) so the updates only need downloading once rather than every machine downloading its own copy direct from the internet.

Have a local email server or mirrored local server.   It is a form of madness emailing each other in the remote office using the overseas email system when you have a narrow connection. The email goes up to the satellite, goes to gmail servers or corporate or wherever, and then back down again. Sending one email to many local users will waste even more bandwidth.  1mb file up and say 1m x6 comes down.

Restrict even more
For a really anal approach to be used by individuals on a personal satellite connections here is another suggestion here using an external proxy server.