Tell-O-phone; or, in search of the Dial Tone

I previously blogged about getting utility service at a new location. I finally have telephone service, but had to expend some effort to get it.

I arrived at the new apartment after work today with a telephone and a screw driver (slotted). Opening the window in my 2nd floor apartment, I lowered the telephone down as far as it would go, and then plugged it into the jack in the room.

Repairing to the network interface device on the side of the building, I looked more closely and found there were five telephone lines entering the box. Two of these were connected to lines B and C, while something had been connected to line F but was cut away. I tried connecting those to jack E first (E is where the dial tone was when I used the test jack) and seeing if the phone worked. It didn’t.

Next, I tried the two lines that were sidetracked to a Time Warner box on the side of the house that was not connected to anything. Also no tone. Putting them back, I went on to the last one. I should mention that these wires were severely weathered and very brittle.

The last one was connected to line A, but had been carelessly connected by the phone company since the cable was partly wedged into the “telco only” side. Using my screw driver I was able to work that open and remove the line to the correct side of the demarc and then close that half up again. Didn’t matter (except for losing the screw driver tip in the grass) since it didn’t work either.

After all of this, I went upstairs and reeled in the phone and shut the screen in the window. A depressing thought occurred to me: There are 5 jacks in the apartment, what if only one of them works? How am I to know, other than testing 5 jack/line × 4 line = 20 possibilities?

Now, I start this but quickly give up in search of a better way. I find it as follows:

There are 4 jacks in the “living room” and 1 in the bedroom. The one in the bedroom was either an after thought OR the original because its line is clearly visible running along the baseboard to the window and out through the frame. I go outside and trace it along the back of the building, under one of the decks and around to within a meter of the network interface, where it stops.

Fortunately the wires were exposed and the insulation weathered enough to enable me to flake it off. I pull enough slack to let me get it into the box and hook it to line E. Returning to the bedroom yields… nothing.

Now I take the little modular box off the wall to discover a molded plastic warning: “BELL SYSTEM PROPERTY” and it’s “NOT FOR SALE”. Screw YOU at&t, I’m a-going to do what I want with your property.

I also discover it wasn’t even wired up at all, so I find the “R” and “G” on the terminals attached to the wall and connect the red lines to R and the green lines to G. No tone, BUT when I hooked the second wire (green) up, I noticed little sparks, so clearly we have current from the NID here. Partial victory.

More closely examining the actual socket, I discover it had been seriously painted up (unsurprizing) and… two of the little springy contact wires were… crossed over each other. How?!

Again using my screw driver I am able to relocate them to their proper places and plug the cord in againe. Complete victory! I have the dial tone! I celebrate by calling my mother.

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