Phone Phact #2 (test yourself & save $)


Old 09-09-02, 09:17 PM
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Phone Phact #2

To help get this forum going I will post some little known facts, tips or tricks you can use to help with your voice and data projects. Feel free to comment, ask questions about them or add tips of your own! Either way, lets get some discussions going!

To avoid getting billed for a dispatch from the phone company when you have trouble on your line you can test your line yourself before calling the telephone company.

Most homes are now equipped with a gray box on the outside of your house that has a small door on it. You need a flat blade screwdriver to open the cover. Inside you will see a small rectangular door (if its not broken off) open it. Inside that you will see two or four screws in there and if you have one phone line it will have wires on two of the four screws. Near the screws there will be a phone jack with a wire plugged into it. Simply unplug that wire from the jack and plug in a regular old telephone into it. If there is dial tone or the trouble goes away, the trouble is in the house. If the trouble still exists the call the telephone company, it's there problem not yours.

Another quick test to do if you have a Multimeter (or similar) around is to check the voltage at the two screws outside. With one lead on each screw you should look for -45 to -52 Volts DC. Anything more or less is a problem as well. Try it with the phone jack unplugged in the outside box and also plugged in and see if the reading changes either way, it shouldn't.

If the problem goes away when you use a phone in the outside box as I said it's your problem. Your next step is to either call an inside wiring vendor ($$$) or figure out how to troubleshoot it yourself by posting the problem in this forum. We will be glad to help.

If you do not subscribe to "Linebacker" the phone company will not fix your inside wiring for free and WILL bill you $65 and up if they are dispatched to your house to find it's your problem. But with the above test you can avoid calling to begin with until you are sure it's there problem. Personally, I would cancel Linebacker and save the four bucks a month since inside wire problems in the home are few and far between unless you have a very damp home, lots of mice chewing wires or lots of dangling phone wires in a high traffic area of the home.

One more thing, when performing the test above with a regular phone, try a second phone just to be sure the problem doesn't go away at the outside box. I say that just in case the phone you tested with wasn't the problem to begin with. I have seen it more than once.

I hope this Phone Phact will help you now or in the future and possibly save you some money in the process. If it does none of those things at least you may get a warm and fuzzy feeling inside because you learned something new today. If you like these little tidbits let me know and I will continue to post more on a weekly basis.
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Old 09-10-02, 05:41 AM
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I'm glad that you shared that with everyone. In my 25+ years of having phone service, only recently did one of the service personnel I spoke with on the phone in regards to my home service having problems, told me exactly that. Explained it in detail, just to save me some money.

Most telephone companies will be happy to come out and check your home wiring for problems (its $75 here), and gladly charge you for it even if it was their problem to begin with. The last time that I had called for them to check the lines in the home, I assumed it was the house wiring this time since they had just come out to fix their lines the week before. Once again, it was their lines, just in a different spot. This time the service tech that came out told me that for some reason (due to the water drainage in that particular area and some other factors) they always have trouble keeping the lines up and running.

It is rare to have 2 different people within the phone company reveal important information like that to help save us (customers) a little money, and unnecessary headaches/worries.

Thank you again for sharing that information, and the other postings as well.

Old 09-10-02, 06:19 AM
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Very good tips... I've found out many times that our lovely Ameritech ( now SBC) complained about repairing inside wiring even with linebacker unless it was fully exposed .
One other thing I would add is that phones do go bad, and phones can do strange things to a perfectly good wiring. Before you do any testing unplug all of the phones (and modems, etc) from the jacks, and then plug them in one by one. There've been several times when the cause was not the wiring, but one of the phones. I personally have a phone that if plugged in, it will "broadcast" FM100.3 to all of the phones in the house.
Old 09-10-02, 06:27 AM
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I had a phone like that too. Must have been really bad though since you couldn't really determine which station it was broadcasting!

I did have the linebacker for the house, but if the phone company comes out and checks the lines in the house and there isn't anything wrong, they charge you the $75. I don't have the "insurance" for the house now since I can see all my wiring and deal with it. I did have it when I lived in an apartment complex since we were responsible for the inside wiring and I had no clue as to how it was run in there, nor access to a box outside to check my lines.

The house I mentioned above was a rental house and when we moved there from the apartments I forgot to remove it from my package with the phone company. We own this house, which is both a blessing and a curse.

Old 09-10-02, 06:33 PM
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I'm glad you like my tips, I have no problem sharing information to save people money. After all the entire reason that little jack is in the box is just for the purpose of the customer to test it themselves. They used to tell you how to do it when you called customer service several years ago but if you can charge for it why bother right? You can't get into the side of the box that the phone company tests and terminates your lines on. (Unless the a previous tech left the special screw out or left it open)

As for the cables sitting in water causing problems, that isn't an uncommon problem. Eventually when they run out of good pairs in the underground cable they will reengineer the route the cable takes and run a new cable. I'm not saying they will do it over night but eventually. Now, as for them charging you for something that was there problem.... I would dispute that and tell them to go pound sand. The telephone company IS RESPONSIBLE for all cabling UP TO the gray box. They cannot charge you for a problem on your line up to your house. Once it gets inside then they can charge you.

To elaborate on Trinitro's issue,

You can pick up a radio station for several reasons. First of all yes it could be a phone itself causing it. Usually its from an older phone or "designer" like phone that have they old type bell ringers in them. Also cheap phones like Sports Illustrated and Time Life used to send out free way back when and others. The second cause for picking up a radio station is you may be VERY close to a transmitter. One thing you can do is complain to the radio station since you say you know its 100.3 and they absolutly have to provide a filter for your phone line. If they won't help you can report them to the FCC. I will say it is unusual to pick up an FM station, usually it's of the AM frequency. I'm not sure if you live in Illinois but there is a bad spot in Schaumburg Illinois where there are two AM towers within a mile of one another or so and I have had customers who reside between the two with it blasting over their lines. The only fix is the filters which only help so much, they don't supress it completly. The other most common cause of radio noise is what they call an unbalanced pair. There are two wires in a normal telephone line and they are reffered to in the busness as the TIP and RING. Each of those wires should be equal in length at least within reason, not down to the centimeter. If one half of it is quite a bit longer than the other it can cause "attenuation" which will give you that problem. Again, you can test for this at they gray box outside to see if it happens there. If it is, once again it's the phone company's problem. It can happen to your in house wiring as well. Usually its caused from old wiring where the outter cable jacketing has become dry, brittle and cracked or even missing. If it's very old wiring it can even be stranded wire which is no longer recommended. Today, the typical installation is 24 gauge solid copper wire. So, for right now those are the reasons I can think of that could cause a radio station on your line. The two choices you have is to either figure out what the cause is or enjoy your free on hold music. Hope this helps

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