The PhoneBoy Blog

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I Have Noise On My Phone Line. What Do I Do?

Old Skool TelephoneOver on The VoIP Weblog, I got a comment on my Should You Avoid VoIP post asking about if they should use VoIP because of some issues with their phone lines. I thought it might be a little off-topic for the VoIP Weblog, so I figured I’d answer it here:

Our phone lines were recently found to be faulty in the house. Qwest, our local provider, wanted $85 just to show up and whatever other charges they incurred in fixing our phone line. We rent the house we live in and our landlord will not pay to repair the line. I am considering getting a VoIP line because my 12 year old son is home in the afternoons and (GASP!) he does not have a cell phone. Is it worth it?

This is a tough question. With most VoIP providers, you’ll probably end up paying in that neighborhood just to get started with the service. And if it works worse than your phone lines, then you’ll have to deal with the hassle of returning stuff and you probably will be out some money.

If you’re getting your Internet service from your cable company and they offer it, I’d go for VoIP through them versus using Vonage or something similar. If it were me, though, I’d try and get the phone line fixed.

Since the breakup of Ma Bell in the early 1980s, phone companies are only responsible for the wiring up to the point where it enters your premises. This point is referred to by bell-heads as the demarc. Most newer homes have a network interface device (NID) at the demarc.

The NID I had both at my previous and current residence have a standard telephone jack inside. Using that jack and a corded phone, you could easily test to see whether or not the noise on your line is coming from the inside wiring or not. The NID can be opened by customers, usually with a screwdriver. If the noise is still present at the NID, the problem is within the phone network itself and your local exchange carrier (LEC) is on the hook to fix it free of charge.

I would also assume it would be possible for your local exchange carrier to–free of charge–perform this test for you if the demarc doesn’t have that jack. The technician would have to hook up a butt set, which simply hooks into the phone wiring at the demarc. They can then use this to determine if the phone line has noise on it outside the house.

Obviously if they come inside the premises, the LEC is going to charge you money to troubleshoot and fix the problem. But if they do, I would assume the landlord would be on the hook to reimburse you for the charge, even if he doesn’t want to pay it. Check your local laws.

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