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My DSL woes, in verse. Hopefully I won't have to progress to haiku.
December 8, 2008 8:17 AM   Subscribe

An appeal to you all so I don't run up the wall/Or beat on my desk with my forehead./For when my DSL is good, the connection's very good -- But when I use the phone, it is horrid.

....In other words.

I have a DSL account with AT&T which I can confirm is properly set up (a friend who was the head of IT for Bloomberg.com for ten years saw to that), and I also have my phone -- an old-ish cordless phone -- plugged into it, and yes, I am using a filter for that. No other electronic device is plugged into this DSL box.

Now. Whenever I use the phone, the DSL box drops its connection to the Internet, and the only way to get the internet connection BACK is to do a hard reset of the DSL box by unplugging and replugging the power cord into the DSL box. Sometimes, even so, it takes up to a half hour. Everything else is fine -- the DSL, LAN, and other lights are on, just the Internet craps out.

Now, I thought that that was the whole point of DSL, that you could use phone and internet simultaneously. We've tried calling AT&T, but all the tech support said is that "sometimes cordless phones interrupt the service". She did not say why, nor have any idea how to rectify that.

...Suggestions? Thoughts? I do have a newer phone I just haven't broken out of the box yet, might that help? (The phone I have now is about 4 years old.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
If you use a phone without a filter it will cause this problem. You say you're using a filter. Are you sure? Do you hear any static on the phone when you're using it? Do you have anything else plugged into the phone lines: an alarm, an answering machine, a fax, a Tivo... anything?

Your installation is broken, you need AT&T to send a tech out.
posted by Nelson at 8:26 AM on December 8, 2008


Hm. Ok IANA phone tech, but it sounds like a legit problem to me. I was one of the early adopters of DSL; they had to come out and dig a giant trench in my backyard to install it. It worked great all the years I had it, and while I recall hearing that using the phone at the same time as the DSL could potentially reduce bandwidth (and yes, I realize this is not VOIP; nevertheless that was what I was told at the time), I never had the phone usage actually nuke the DSL connection, and I always used a cordless. A crappy vtech one, too.
posted by bitterkitten at 8:26 AM on December 8, 2008


Those phone filters provided by the phone companies can go bad. I'd replace it first - it's a cheap solution if that is the problem.
posted by COD at 8:34 AM on December 8, 2008


Nelson: When I say "filter," I mean the doohickey that they sent with the DSL package that looked like a 3-inch length of phone line sticking out of a piece of plastic. I was instructed to plug the phone cord into the plastic, and the 3-inch length of phone line into the DSL box. There is absolutely nothing else plugged into the phone line anywhere -- the answering machine is of a piece with the phone. No Tivo, no alarm, nothing.

COD: I just got this a month ago, and used one of the filters right out of the package. I still have the other four they sent -- should I try switching out for one of those instead?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:39 AM on December 8, 2008


Yes, swap out the filter for another.

If that doesn't help, then next troubleshooting step is to try a corded phone in place of the cordless and see if the problem is the same or if it goes away. You can definitely get RF interference onto your phone line, and an old cordless phone might be producing some interference.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:42 AM on December 8, 2008


Tell them you want an "ATM OAM F5 End-to-End Loopback" test and use the phone. OK, try the new phone and see if it gets better, your old one might be doing something a little bit out of the ordinary. Then it's either your box, your wiring, or a card on their side. Sometimes these things end up being a poor connection in your wall jack. Totally hard to tell. If you can, try and move your phone or your box to another wall connection.
posted by zengargoyle at 8:48 AM on December 8, 2008


I used to work for another DSL provider (can you hear me now?) and it could be one of a # of things, maybe the phone, inside wiring, the filter etc. You can switch out the filter that you are using w/ another that was sent in the pkg. Do you only have the 1 phone plugged in? You can try putting the phone in another jack to see if that resolves the issue. Barring that you will need to call tech support so they can test the line and probably send out a tech.
posted by googlebombed at 8:51 AM on December 8, 2008


Sounds like you're doing the right thing with the filter, Empress. Certainly worth a shot swapping filters.

One other thing you could try: most DSL modems actually have built in filters. There's two phone jacks in back: one where you plug it into the wall, and an empty, filtered jack you could plug your phone into. What happens if you plug your phone into that jack? Leave off the filter for this test, it won't help anything.

Really you need AT&T to come out to diagnose the problem. That thing about cordless phones is nonsense. If they refuse to serve you, you may want to look into an alternate DSL provider like speakeasy.net or (in the Bay Area) sonic.net.
posted by Nelson at 9:00 AM on December 8, 2008


plug the phone cord into the plastic, and the 3-inch length of phone line into the DSL box.

The DSL box? Like the modem? Try putting a Y connector between the box and the wall and plug in there.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:00 AM on December 8, 2008


It's been awhile since I've had DSL and a land line but when I did I think I had the phone without a filter plugged directly into the DSL modem since, IIRC, the DSL modem had an internal filter for its phone jack. All other phones in the house had filters.

So I'd try plugging the phone directly into the DSL modem first.

Next steps require additional jacks. Try plugging the phone (with filter) into another phone jack. Try moving the DSL modem to another phone jack. Be sure to also try the other filters as already suggested.

Beyond that you probably will need the phone company to come out and do some troubleshooting: testing the line to the house/apartment, checking the DSL modem (and filters), checking your phone wiring, etc.
posted by 6550 at 9:10 AM on December 8, 2008


I was instructed to plug the phone cord into the plastic, and the 3-inch length of phone line into the DSL box.

Just as a sanity check, the filter should go between the phone and either a wall jack or the phone jack in the modem. There should be no filter between the wall jack and the input jack to the modem. Make sure you don't have the filter on the wrong jack of the modem.

If it takes a half hour to reconnect, it means you have a very poor signal and using the phone probably just pushes it over the edge. Have the phone company check the line quality. It's not uncommon for a neighborhood line to go bad due to corrosion or a bad connection.
posted by JackFlash at 9:29 AM on December 8, 2008


To repeat what others have said... the micro-filter is for the phone (and other devices that use the normal phone signal, like fax machines etc), not the DSL modem.

If you have more than one such device (as Nelson asks) then they will each need to have a filter.

With regards to cordless phones - if that does turn out to be the issue (unlikely by the sounds of things) - try changing the channel number for the WiFi from the default setting. This is a good tip generally if experiencing WiFi dropouts, particularly if there are lots of other WLans in the vicinity.
posted by saintsguy at 9:49 AM on December 8, 2008


We've tried calling AT&T, but all the tech support said is that "sometimes cordless phones interrupt the service".

Switch to a landline phone. Does it continue to happen? If so call them back and be assertive.

Seconding replacing the filter while youre at it.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:36 AM on December 8, 2008


Test it with another phone, preferably not a wireless model.

My next guess would be either failing DSL modem and/or poor signal to noise ratio on your line for the speed you are configured to. Problems with your inside wiring could also be an issue.

Really though, if a different phone or a different filter don't solve the problem, they need to send a tech out with his testing tools
posted by Good Brain at 10:43 AM on December 8, 2008


Okay, I think I've got an initial plan of attack here:

1. Switch to one of the other filters.
2. Try the new phone.
3. Try a CORDED phone.
4. If none of the above works, call AT&T (or bring my tech friend over to say whatever secret buzzword he used so we don't end up stuck in a "are you sure the power is on?" idiot loop) and have them come check the phone line in person.

Fortunately, the phone service is AT&T as well, so that simplifies things.

I'm not sure about trying the phone in another jack, because I think only one land line jack in the entire place works (there are many jacks, but they were all signed over to my erstwhile roommate and one had to be split off for me when I moved in -- then when she moved out, my new roommate only used his cell, so they just turned off the service and left it like that). And -- yes, I do have the filter plugged into the right thing. (My tech friend double checked that.)

But I'll crack out the spare filters and the new phone and give that a shot. Thanks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:53 AM on December 8, 2008


Okay, here are the two ways to set it up, using a single jack.

Phone jack -> Splitter, from the splitter the cord goes to the DSL modem and the other side goes to the filter and then the phone, like in this picture.

Phone jack -> DSL modem, telephone plugs into the DSL modem WITHOUT a filter, like in this picture. Do not use the filter if the phone is plugged into the DSL modem.

Some DSL modems do not have a secondary port to connect a telephone. Use the first method in that situation. Some DSL modems do have a secondary port for a telphone. Use the second method.
posted by 6550 at 11:43 AM on December 8, 2008


If you have multiple jacks in the house, there's another possible noise source: other lines.

If you know where the demark point (where the phone company lines end and your lines begin, usually something like a mini electric panel or junction box) for the phone is, you can get someone to check your phone lines to each jack in the house individually. This was a problem for me recently with a DSL service. Some dust or something caused an old, unused jack to fail, which put a lot of intermittent static on the line. Replacing the jack solved the problem.

Do this after step 4 on your plan. I means you need someone with a line tester to come into your house/apartment and check your wiring. Can cost a lot of $ if you do it yourself, but my ISP did it for me.
posted by bonehead at 12:17 PM on December 8, 2008


If you know where the demark point (where the phone company lines end and your lines begin, usually something like a mini electric panel or junction box) for the phone is, you can get someone to check your phone lines to each jack in the house individually. This was a problem for me recently with a DSL service. Some dust or something caused an old, unused jack to fail, which put a lot of intermittent static on the line. Replacing the jack solved the problem.

....Hmmm. I think the demark point is in my roommate's room, by the window that he left open all summer -- and it's not a junction box, it's just a crapton of jacks all sitting there on the wall.

So all manner of stuff could be going on there. Worth checking out.

Thanks for the tip.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:22 PM on December 8, 2008


Photos of various Demarc's
posted by Good Brain at 12:31 AM on December 10, 2008


Whoa, I thought I hit "resolved" on this by now, so let me do that -- and issue the final update that I think this is all because my phone line itself is wonky. I was talking with a friend who mentioned that he's had trouble calling me in the past once in a while, and was having this trouble before I even got DSL, so it could be that the phone line itself is just tweaked and fixing that would fix the DSL as well.

Which is probably an easier fix, because I will not have to get stuck on a tech support loop walking through an idiot script when I call. Unless AT&T wants me to try to get into self-phone wiring repair, which seems unlikely.

But thanks, all!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:04 AM on December 15, 2008


Final FINAL update.

It took me another month after that last "update" to rectify the situation. A tech came out to look at my line, and said that the line was just fine. I went into another series of back-and-forth with AT&T, and then FINALLY stumbled upon something on Google that said that cordless phones that were of a specific number Megahertz can interfere with DSL connections - and sure enough, my old phone was that specific number. This same source suggested that cordless phones with a DIFFERENT number Megahertz would be okay. I bought a phone with that specific number megahertz -- my DSL still disconnects when I use my phone, but instead of taking a half hour and requiring a hard reset to get it working again, it pops right back on only two minutes after I hang up and I don't have to do anything to get it back.

It's still not an ideal, but it's a hell of a lot better than where it was, and I'm willing to settle for that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:23 PM on February 18, 2009


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