View Full Version : Phone Line Question

07-21-2008, 07:50 AM
This has nothing to do with Christmas lighting, but i figured some of the knowledgable tech guys here may be able to help me out. Over the last week my phone has gone dead 3 times (no dial tone at all, get a busy signal when you call my number from outside, no DSL). Each time it has happened it has been humid (2 of the 3 times were just high humidity, no rain within a day or two).

Per their instructions, I check the service at the Network Interface Device (NID) located outside the house. Never any dial tone there either. I call the phone company for service, they do a line test, which says everything is OK, and they will send someone out. Has taken 1-2 days for them to get out there, and by the time they arrive, the phones are working again, so they can't find a problem on their end or mine.

Anyway, given that this keeps happening during high humidity, I am thinking moisture may be collecting on or near a wire and shorting it out. The wires in my house are old and that could easily be the case. But since the phone company never makes it out there when the phones are dead, they can't find it, or determine if it is on their end or mine.

So, does anyone know any ways of testing the inside lines to see if there is a short or other problem? Since all of the wires are in walls and crawl spaces, I can't exactly follow along the length of each one. And it is a two-story home, so I can't even hook up a multimeter to both ends of the wires and do a continuity check. I am sure with high tech gear I could do this, but trying to do it with the equipment I have on hand for my christmas light addiction.

Thanks all.

07-21-2008, 08:06 AM
if moisture is shorting them out, you should be able to check with a multimeter at one end, just check two different wires to see if there is any continuity.

07-21-2008, 08:13 AM
Per their instructions, I check the service at the Network Interface Device (NID) located outside the house. Never any dial tone there either.

Did you disconnect the house service before doing this? If so, the problem sounds like it's the phone company's line.

07-21-2008, 08:27 AM
Did you disconnect the house service before doing this? If so, the problem sounds like it's the phone company's line.

It seemed like the only place I could do that was behind the big "DO NOT OPEN" door, so I didn't try that. All phones were disconnected, but the inside wires were still connnected where hard-wired.

07-21-2008, 08:31 AM
if moisture is shorting them out, you should be able to check with a multimeter at one end, just check two different wires to see if there is any continuity.

I think there are 4 wires hooked up, but only 2 are used (I am not sure which two offhand). Should I just check between all combinations of wires, or only certain ones?


07-21-2008, 08:43 AM
This info is true for my house and may not apply anywhere else.

There should be two pair of wires in normal residential telephone service. The first pair is typically the only one in use (red/green) and the second is spare (black/yellow). Inside the NIU is a small male headed cable plugged into a female receptical. Un-plug this before testing your lines inside the house to isolate yourself from their infrastructure. Test for continunity between red and green at the NIU after disconnect. If it is short (when humid) then the problem is in your house. Also, plug your phone (with DSL filter) into that jack inside the NIU to see if your service works on their side (when humid).

Does your water meter use your telephone line to report usage to the utility? That could be a culprit as well.

07-21-2008, 12:00 PM
Who's the phone service with and where are you located? Do you know anybody that works for your phone company?

I work for AT&T and normally if we find a customer with an issue like this we can escalate within the company to get you some resolution. Not sure if that is the case for phone companies.

Virtus last post gives you a pretty good troubleshooting list to follow. It does sound from the way you have described it though, with no service at the outside box, that is an issue with the phone companies wiring.

A little disclaimer, I do not work on the phone side of the house and actually have very little contact with them because of federal requirements separating our business units.


07-21-2008, 12:16 PM
I am in Amherst, NY (just outside of Buffalo) and have Verizon.

I called home at lunch and all of the static is gone, so nothing I can do about the problem now. Have to wait until the next time it happens to see what I can find. Thanks to everyone for their help, and if the patterns continues, I'll be asking for more in a day or two.

07-21-2008, 01:02 PM
Well, I can't help you with a Verizon contact but I'm pretty sure they have the same type customer service escalation that we do. At this point I think I would call in and ask for a manager. Explain that you have had this issue 3 times in the last week and it is unacceptable. Ask them to come out and check the wiring from their distribution box to your house. Make sure they now that you checked your service at your NID and it was out there all 3 times as well so they know it is not an issue with wiring in your home.

Three times in one week is pretty bad and I think I'd make them work toward a solution. The phone companies are all pretty concerned about losing land line service and broadband these days so if you are upset they should take notice. A lot of people are dropping their land lines altogether for a cellular only setup and this looks bad to Wall Street, so the phone companies are paying attention.


07-22-2008, 01:56 AM
If outside at the box you disconnect the service from your house. Then plug the phone into the service port and it still doesn't work, It is the phone companys problem. They should be able to to send a service tech to the field to find the problem. Sounds like maybe you are getting the run around.

08-18-2008, 10:56 AM
I know for a fact, some phone switches (on the company side) will kill the line for a set period of time if it senses a short for a certain duration. If your line was shorted, and you disconnected the house service at the demark, and you still didn't have a dial tone, this could have been the problem. Leaving it disconnected long enough eventually restored the phone service.

08-18-2008, 12:07 PM

You may want to try the following the next time you lose your service: When the service goes out, disconnect all phones, modems, etc from the line. Go to the telephone box on the outside and disconnect your inside wiring from the service. At the point in time you realize that have a problem, the telephone company would have already disabled (automated process) your phone service to protect their equipment. With the house wire disconnected from the service and all equipment inside, place a ohm meter on the inside wiring. You should see infinate resistance. Depending on how many phone jacks you have in your house, there many be more than one set of house wires in the telephone box. If so, seperate and test each one. For houses with multiple jacks, it is very common to daisy chain jacks together. You may need to seperate wires at the jack and test seperately. If you locate a shorted section, test both pairs (typically red/green & yellow/black). It may be possible to use the other pair for that section of wire. Also, if you have any exposed telephone wire in the attic, you may wish to check as critters sometimes chew through the cable and expose the bare wire. Hope this helps and good luck. It can be very frustrating to isolate a sporatic cable problem.

08-18-2008, 12:39 PM
After many calls and several outages, I finally waas able to get a service tech to show up before the problem fixed itself. As I had assumed, the problem was with their lines outside my house, and it has been fixed. Hopefully it will stay that way now.

Thanks to all for their suggestions. While it didn't help me fix the problem, it made me feel more certain in my theory that is was a problem on their end.

08-19-2008, 10:34 AM
I had a similar experience a few years back. Everytime it rained I would get static on the line but by the time I was able to get a service appointment the lines would dry out and the problem would disappear. Finally after a few months of this back and forth game a long lasting rain storm came through, lasted about a week. Sure enough the issue was there when the tech came out to check. He traced it back to a cable section somewhere on their lines between poles that was getting water in it and causing the problem. He swapped out the pairs for my line and no problems since. I no longer use the local telco since I have broadband phone service now. To the credit of the telco tech sporatic issues are sometimes very difficult to diagnose.