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Is the excuse Verizon just gave me for why we keep losing dial tone plausible?
September 2, 2009 3:51 PM   Subscribe

Three times this month: we lose dial tone. We call to complain. Their automated system runs an automated "line test," which fixes the problem. Is the excuse Verizon just gave me for why we this keeps happening plausible?

Their customer service representative claims this is because "there's a short in one of your telephones that knocks out the line" and recommends we go through a debugging process of removing them one at a time every time the line goes out to see which it is.

I don't know enough about how the phone system works to be able to judge whether this is a reasonable thing to suggest, or if they've sent me on a long goose-chase just to get me off the support line.

Do any of you?
posted by ook to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Have you tried doing what they recommend? Unless you have a surprising number of land line telephones in your home, I cannot imagine it would take that long to just try next time there's an issue.

Sometimes our land line has that problem, and it turned out that the reason is that one of the phone wall jacks is worn out a bit and the cord can get jiggled just so and then becomes disconnected while appearing to be connected. So I don't think Verizon's explanation is entirely implausible.
posted by The World Famous at 4:04 PM on September 2, 2009


If there really is a short causing your problem then unplugging your telephone phones is a good way of determining if the problem is in your equipment or if the problem is with the telco's equipment. (It could also be caused by your phone wiring or telephone jacks though).

I work for a telephone company (not Verizon). I need more information to help you. Do the phones start working again by themselves, after Verizon does something, or do the phones start working again after you unplug your telephone sets (and answering machine, and alarm equipment and anything else connected to the phone line)?

What happens when the phone is not working and you call it from another line? Does it ring, do you get a busy signal or does it immediately go to voice mail (if you have it)?

Does it occur when the weather is wet? Are there any other problems like static on the line?

Bottom line, what they are asking you to do is not unreasonable. However, after three outages you might want to insist that they send someone out to your house to investigate.
posted by 14580 at 4:06 PM on September 2, 2009


This has happened to me in the past: we once bought a Killer Telephone that kept crashing our landline. So it does occur.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:06 PM on September 2, 2009


"I don't know enough about how the phone system works to be able to judge whether this is a reasonable thing to suggest"

It is. Faulty equipment or inside wiring can cause your line to be marked as shorted. The telco isn't going to want to apply 48VDC across a short for obvious reasons, so instead your line is simply disabled under those circumstances.
posted by majick at 4:12 PM on September 2, 2009


I cannot imagine it would take that long to just try next time there's an issue.

The problem is that the 'shorting out' doesn't happen immediately; the line stays live for days or weeks before going out again -- so figuring out which one is actually triggering the short could take months.

Do the phones start working again by themselves, after Verizon does something,

When we call customer support, we get an automated system which asks the number and says "hold on while we test the line". This causes phones on the (previously) dead line to chirp once, and we have dialtone again. Then the automated system tells us "we couldn't find any problem on the line."

Unplugging our phones etc doesn't fix it when it goes dead, only them running their test does.

What happens when the phone is not working and you call it from another line?

I admit I haven't thought to try this.

Does it occur when the weather is wet? Are there any other problems like static on the line?

That line has always had a nasty background hum in wet weather, which I've given up on getting them to repair (they always go to repair it when it's clear, you see, so can't find any problem.) But this new issue doesn't seem to be weather-related; it's sunny today, anyway.

Bottom line, what they are asking you to do is not unreasonable.
We once bought a Killer Telephone that kept crashing our landline


OK, that's good to know then, at least they aren't out and out lying to me :)
posted by ook at 4:17 PM on September 2, 2009


Does your phone system contain any jacks and/or wiring that you installed yourself or that was installed by a previous owner or tenant? Phone wires are very thin gage -- 22 or 24 AWG -- but they are also well insulated. Since most phone jack wiring terminals use a pinch style of contact, the wire has to be punched down into the terminal, and the wire insulation needs to be pierced to make contact with the terminal. This should be done with a punch down tool, but the average homeowner rarely has one of these, so sometimes they get punched down with a screwdriver or anything vaguely flat and/or pointed, which can result in some flaky connections. So a bad connection in the wall jack is definitely a possibility if any of the wiring was installed by a homeowner or other non-professional.
posted by mosk at 5:03 PM on September 2, 2009


If it happens again, call them immediately and have them test the line for a short. If it tests as a shorted line, then you can (with the phone company still on the (I assume cellular) phone) disconnect all your telephones and see if it test as a short again. Hopefully the short will be gone, and you'll know that it's one of your phones that's causing the problem.

If it remains shorted, go to the first box that the telephone line reaches when it comes into your house, often labeled "Telephone Network Interface" and sometimes called the point of demarcation, open it, and there should be an easy way for you to disconnect your house's phone wiring entirely. The point of demarcation is where phone wiring problems go from being their problem to your problem, so if all of your wiring is disconnected from the phone company's wiring and they still see a short, then it's their problem.

The down side of this testing strategy is that the short might only last a second. This could still be long enough for the switch at the phone company to pull dial tone off the line, but not enough time for you to find the short before it fixes itself again.
posted by kiltedtaco at 5:18 PM on September 2, 2009


We had a problem where there was a 6 inch piece of really old telephone wires in the wall.
All the lines to the pole were band new, all the lines in the house were brand new, but there was this 6 inches of no mans land wire that must have been 60 years old. When it got wet from the rain it would sometimes short out.

The weird thing was it would keep our phone from ringing, but outgoing calls worked. It was after people started sedning us email saying "you guys never pick up!" that we knew something was wrong.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 5:24 PM on September 2, 2009


I used to specialize in fixing phone problems no one else could find and fix and I have some advice if you're having chronic phone problems.

1) Keep calling and be persistent about putting trouble reports in.

2) Ask for the company president's phone number - they'll probably have a staff specially trained to get problems like yours fixed.

3) Lots of problems are related to wet weather. The problem is that the telco is going to put customers without service ahead of those who just have static. So, watch the weather forecast and call the day before it is suppose to rain (from another phone), and say that the static on your line is so bad you can't use it. Hopefully, that will get the tech to show up the next day when you phone line is actually wet and the problem is there.

3) If it really is a chronic problem then threaten to go to the Public Service Commission or whatever regulatory body your state has. And then do it and keep doing it if you don't get results.

4) If you get a tech who seems really motivated to try and fix your problem (and not just talk nice to you) then treat them really well (actually it is to your advantage to treat them all well). Most of the techs I know truly want to fix the customer's problem, but sometimes you just can't find and fix an intermittent problem unless it's there while you're there.

Also, make certain the tech knows your trouble history and you give them as much information as possible. Leave a note on the phone box if you're not going to be home. You can also request to have the tech call you when they arrive at your house. I would also request to have them call you before they leave also.

BTW, Verizon wants you to check your phones because they don't want you to be mad at them if they dispatch a tech who then finds the problem was caused by something in your house and they have to charge you for the service call. It also saves Verizon money because the service charge is probably not going to be enough to cover the cost of the truck roll. Especially if they are getting lots of other trouble reports at that time.
posted by 14580 at 6:34 AM on September 3, 2009


Thanks, 14580 -- it's awesome to have knowledgeable people to turn to...
posted by ook at 6:28 AM on September 4, 2009


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