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Checking for and locating the source of telephone line noise

Line noise is a major contributor to decreased connection speeds and is a fairly common problem. The following steps outline a method to check for noise on your telephone line. It is only necessary to perform these tasks if you think you have a connection problem. This process can be time consuming and complicated depending on the specific configuration of your telephone wiring and the number of telephones connected in your house.

If you have a single telephone number used by all communication devices (phone, computer, etc.):

  • Pick up the handset on any telephone in the house, wait for the dial tone, and then press any digit except 0.
  • You should hear nothing. If you hear any pops, crackles, hums or talking then you have a potential problem
  • Repeat this process at every telephone in the building to determine the specific location of the problem
  • Turn off your computer
  • Plug a standard telephone (not a portable telephone) into the jack labeled "Phone" on your modem, usually located at the back of the computer. Repeat steps 1 and 2 above

If you have a dedicated telephone number for your computer:

  • Turn off your computer
  • Plug a standard telephone (not a portable telephone) into the jack labeled "Phone" on your modem, usually located at the back of the computer
  • Pick up the handset on the telephone, wait for the dial tone, and then press any digit except 0
  • You should hear nothing. If you hear any pops, crackles, hums or talking then you have a potential problem

If you do not hear noise at any of the telephone locations or at your computer, then line noise is not the cause of your poor connection speed.

If there is line noise at any or all of the telephone jacks in your building, then the problem either exists with your home wiring or the telephone service to your house. For more information on what you can do, read the next section below. If there is line noise at the computer location only, it is possible that the telephone wire in the wall for that jack is damaged or not connected correctly, or that the telephone jack is damaged. Ensure that all connections are tight. If the problem persists, you might need to install a new wire for that jack or a new jack.

What To Do If You Have a Telephone Line Noise Problem inside of your House

If you have a line noise at every location in your house, then the problem either exists with your home wiring, or the telephone carrier's telephone system. Try these solutions:

Check your Network Interface Device (NID). You might be able to test the phone connection from the NID on your building. To do this:

  • Look for the telephone NID box on your building. It'll be a gray box approximately 8" x 4" in size
  • Open the box with a screwdriver
  • Unplug the house wire and plug the telephone directly into the NID
  • Pick up the handset on the telephone, wait for the dial tone, and then press any digit except 0
  • If the line noise is still present then you will have to call the telephone company to service your line. There may be a charge for this service

Unplug other telephony devices. If you have any other devices (such as fax machines, caller IDs, or answering machines) using the same phone line as your modem, then disconnect all of these devices and repeat the line test.

Visually inspect telephone lines. Ensure that the cord running from your computer to your wall jack doesn't have any cuts, breaks, or other damage. Also check that the wires on the line and in the plugs do not have any corrosion on them. Normal and clean wires are generally shiny copper in color. Replace the telephone cord that runs from the wall to your computer just in case there is hidden damage to the cord.

Avoid phone line interference. Check that the telephone cord does not run near any high-voltage equipment or appliances, such as your refrigerator, electric stove, or air conditioning unit. This may interfere with your telephone line and create line noise.

Move your computer to a new location. If line noise is present at only one location and you cannot fix that location, move you computer and modem to a new location that doesn't have the problem.

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