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Physical Line Checks

From a newsgroup post by Marc Bissonnette

First, the disclaimer. (Everybody's got one): I am not an electrician, representative of Bell Canada, Sympatico or anyone else even remotely related to Bell Canada. If, by following this advice, you get yourself electrocuted, melt your computer, any of its components, cause your neighbourhood to sink into the ground or trigger Armageddon, it's all your fault for doing this in the first place. When working with ANY live wires, follow good safety habits. I've shocked myself a few times by stupidly touching two wires, or one wire and a ground. Personally, I use insulated construction boots when working on home wiring / telephone wiring.

If you're not sure of what you're doing, HIRE A PROFESSIONAL. It's not worth the hassle (and potential injury) if you haven't a clue :) If this works, and you're connect speeds triple to 15 gigabits per second then, of course, I take all the credit :) (Unless you're getting 15 gigabits into your coffin, in which case I've never even heard of computers)

  1. Find the demarkation point in your house. This is where the phone lines come in from the outside. In some older houses (like mine), it's a little black box with a brass bar and screws inside. CAUTION: There is electricity flowing through these! It'll give you a nasty shock if you touch both wires (Or touch one wire and aren't properly insulated). If you're uncomfortable working with electricity, ask someone who is compfortable / competant to do it.

    Un screw the brass plugs from the bar (I think it's called a lighning arrestor, I could be wrong, though) and with a dry cue-tip, wipe off the threads and the socket to which they screw into. Re-screw the plugs.

  2. While still at the demark point, check the connections of the wires coming out of it and leading to the next junction box by disconnecing them (make sure to remember where they were connected in the first place) and clean them with a piece of sand paper or emery cloth. (If you're using sand paper, 80 grit or higher is good. Make sure there aren't any particles left on the connectors (If you still have that cue-tip handy, it's a good thing to clean off the sanding debris.) Re-connect the wires.
  3. Inspect all phone wires leading from the demark point to the rest of the jacks. Look for aged wires (insulation that has dried out, cracked, split, etc), damaged wires (from mice, vacuum cleaners, your kids, you, acts of God, etc). If you find any, replace the whole run. (It's not worth soldering it, since you probably won't get a *perfect* joint and telephone wire is cheap anyway :)
  4. Open all your jack boxes, clean the connections in those with the sand paper / emery cloth and your handy-dandy cue-tip (get a new one :). While they're open, look for excessive corrosion or build-up, especially if they're in a high-moisture room like the laundry room (This happened to me, I had a jack directly behind a dryer vent, which made a TON of static). Move these jacks if possible, but if it's not (or you just plain like the convenience of talking while washing your undies), I'm pretty sure you can buy special jack boxes for high-moisture areas (or get an outdoor box).
  5. If you've got any really old phones, now's probably a good time to polish them up and have them bronzed, stuffed or sent to the great Switching Office in the Sky. Get modern phones for your extentions.
  6. If at all possible (and it really isn't hard) install a dedicated line from your demark point to your computer. The lower the number of junctions and connections between the 1 meg modem (or ADSL) and the outside line, the better. (You can also call Bell, or an independant contractor to do this for you).
  7. After all of this, pick of the phone and dial a single digit (except 0) to get rid of the dial tone. Make sure the kids aren't making a racket in the background (can you tell I'm a father?) and listen to the line for static, popping or hissing noises (even faint ones). You should also try this by calling a friend and telling them to shut up for a second, so you can hear the line quality on a live connection.

If you've done all of the above and still hear noise on your line, call Bell Repair (611) and tell em you've got line noise, which is interfering with your data connections and would they please check your line (Be nice, they're busy people). Only do this if you think there really is a problem with your line. (There's probably a limit to how nice they'll be if they get a zillion calls on clean lines :)

For me, I did all of the above and it improved my 56K modem connection from a variable connect rate of 34.4K - 42.3K to 50.3 K steady (Dialling into Interlog, using a v.90 Diamond modem). I'm sure the clean lines have something to do with steady 100K downloads on the HSE, too :)

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Marc Bissonnette is the proprietor of CanadianISP, Canadas' largest Internet Service Provider search and comparison site.

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