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Two becomes one?
September 9, 2007 8:35 AM   Subscribe

How can I rewire all my phone jacks to one line (from two)?

There are two houses on my lot. House A has a landline. House B used to have a landline. I want all the jacks in house B to be hooked up to phone line A. Is there a simple way that I can do this by myself w/o paying the phone company a lot of money?
posted by special-k to Home & Garden (27 answers total)
 
PS: Reason I want to do this is so that people in house B can have DSL (not necessarily voice).
posted by special-k at 8:44 AM on September 9, 2007


[required snarky answer] this is why god invented cell phones [/snarky]

Seriously, though, you have a few things to think about:

1. You need to connect the wires from house A to house B so that they can share a line. Underground conduit? wires strung from house to house? Some sort of wireless bridge?

2. Once you've got wires connecting the two houses, you need to carefully tie the two formerly independent systems together. If you ever want to untie them, or use DSL or do other interesting things, you need to tie the houses together in the telecom standard way.

If you are reasonably handy, you can probably do all this work yourself, but the DIY solution will almost certainly come back to bite you in the future, unless you become familiar with the best practices for this kind of thing. You can save a lot of time, and possibly some money by hiring a contractor who knows how to do this kind of thing.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:44 AM on September 9, 2007


Regarding DSL:

1. You do know that you can only have one DSL connection per phone line, right?

2. DSL speeds depend on phone line quality. A long run like this will very likely degrade your signal quality.

3. Instead, consider running an underground conduit with fiber in it between house A and house B. Then you can network the two houses together today without hacking up the phone lines.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:46 AM on September 9, 2007


b1tr0t: Yes I do understand that we only get one DSL connection per line. That's why I want to extend the phone line from house A to house B (they are less than 10 feet apart). We used to do a wireless router but it's not as fast as when we plug directly into a jack.

If you are reasonably handy, you can probably do all this work yourself

Yes I am handy. I just need someone to tell me how to do it (e.g. connect red wire here. yellow wire there) or give me some links.

Instead, consider running an underground conduit with fiber in it between house A and house B.

That would be way more expensive than just calling a phone company tech to do it (which is exactly what I'm trying to avoid)
posted by special-k at 8:53 AM on September 9, 2007


House A will no longer have DSL if you do this.
posted by smackfu at 9:02 AM on September 9, 2007


Unless there's some existing wiring between the two buildings, I'd say the best solution would be to buy a nicer wireless setup. You can certainly buy wireless equipment that will be much faster than what you can get over DSL.
posted by advicepig at 9:04 AM on September 9, 2007


smackfu: oh really? I'm a bit puzzled. Both houses are practically attached to each other. Both houses have phone jacks (but had different lines in the past). How is this different than say adding a new room in the back and having a jack (from line A) extend into that?

Alternatively, how else can I acheive this (both houses have DSL) without making this overly expensive?
posted by special-k at 9:08 AM on September 9, 2007


The speed of an 802.11g router is much faster than your DSL line, and therefore you'll get the same speed to the Internet as you'd get "when you plug into a jack". If wireless was the bottleneck in getting to a DSL connection, you were either using 802.11b, or you weren't so much bridging the houses with wireless as you were trying to get clients in one house to pick up an AP in the other.

You'll have to involve the phone company regardless because you'll need them to do the disconnect of the existing line, which leaves the house on a copper pair that the phone company owns.

And regardless you will need to have wiring going from one house to the other if you want their phone lines to be connected together. Whether stringing copper from roof to roof or burying fiber is easier, I dunno. The phone company will not connect two houses together at the local switchbox or the CO, and even if they did that extra run would rule out DSL anyway.

If you really don't want to string copper (and properly ground it, etc.) or bury fiber -- and I can't blame you not wanting to do either -- I'd strongly, strongly recommend terminating the (<10Mbps, probably) DSL in house A and setting up a wireless 802.11g bridge between both houses, with appropriate antennas for a direct link and so on. Then treat the Ethernet port on the bridge in house B as "plugging directly into a (54Mbps) jack".
posted by mendel at 9:08 AM on September 9, 2007


Both houses have phone jacks (but had different lines in the past). How is this different than say adding a new room in the back and having a jack (from line A) extend into that?

It's like if you add a new phone jack, and then expect to be able to talk at the same time as someone on the existing phone lines. You'll just talk over each other and not be able to understand anything. Same idea with the DSL. It would only work if you had two DSL modems, and only one was on at a time.

The basic limiting thing here is the phone company's line from the street. You want to do two things on one line, line A.

(Now you may object that you can do two things on line A, phone + DSL, but that's only because they use different frequency ranges, and there are filters on the line to keep them from interfering with each other.)
posted by smackfu at 9:13 AM on September 9, 2007


thanks smackfu. I (sorta) get it now. I had it in my head that this was as simple as rearranging wires in a control box. In house A, all of us just plug our computers (simultaneously) using 2wire USB dongles directly into phone jacks in our rooms. I thought people in B could do the same if we were all on a single line.
posted by special-k at 9:20 AM on September 9, 2007


You're missing a mental step here. You want the two houses to have the same phone wiring because you want them to share a DSL connection but sharing a phone line doesn't accomplish this.

The DSL connection runs concurrent on the phone wires with the telephone signal, effectively invisibly to the use of plain old telephones. Let's say you have 100 phone jacks in a big old mansion and into 99 of those jacks you have a standard telephone. When you pick up one of those phones you have a dial tone, despite the fact that there's internet hiding there as well.

Into one other jack - ONE other - you have a little splitter and into one of those plugs is a telephone, in the other the DSL router. That DSL router listens to the hidden signals and provides an ethernet jack to plug a computer (or multiple computers, though a router) into it.

Let's say you succeed in your mission and both houses have phone jacks into line X. You still can only plug ONE dsl router into one phone jack. Maybe it's in house A. Maybe house B (overlooking cable run length and signal degredation).

You still only have that ethernet and internet access in the house where the DSL router is plugged in. The other house CANNOT plug a SECOND DSL router into the same phone line. Not and have it work, anyway.

SO, what you really want isn't phone to both houses, it's ETHERNET to both houses. Happily, this is easier.

Go to your local Greybar or other high-end electronics shop (Radio Shack cannot help you here) and get 40 feet of direct burial (meaning you can just dig yourself a trench between the two houses) cable appropriate to run 802.11 over. Bury it, drill holes in both house walls, jam the cable through. On either end wire up RJ45 jacks (plenty of instruction on the internet for the correct wiring patterns here - make sure your pairs are correct) and ta-da: you can now connect a switch to each end.

House B you'll plug that cable into the crossover port and then will be left with 3, 4 or 7 ports to plug other stuff into. In reality you can just plug a single cable from your current router device into that port.

Or you can just use wireless on either end, which is about a thousand times easier and, unless you're moving big data from one local computer to another, a factor of ten (or more) faster than your internet connection can carry anyway.
posted by phearlez at 9:20 AM on September 9, 2007


this sounds dead simple. twisted copper pair is just that: two wires. So getting House B to share House A's lines is just a matter off disconnecting House B from the phone company's wires and extending the wires from House A. (yes, there may be some cable stringing or burying, but it's not technically challenging.)

(The only tricky thing with phone lines is making sure that you don't get a call while working on them. The ring is only 20V or something, but you can feel it.)

If you want DSL access in House B, then you mostly likely cannot also have it in House A. (You would require a 2nd modem. Some ISPs allow this - but I'm sure it would cost more.)

The wireless setup sounds flakey. I don't know how close the 2 houses are, but if they are brick you will run into signal problems.

If all you want is internet access in House B, why not just bury a conduit with some ethernet cable?
posted by kamelhoecker at 9:22 AM on September 9, 2007


The wireless setup sounds flakey.

The antenna goes outside, you know.
posted by mendel at 9:23 AM on September 9, 2007


phearlez: Thank you! That made perfect sense (sorry I am so dense with stuff like this).
posted by special-k at 9:26 AM on September 9, 2007


In house A, all of us just plug our computers (simultaneously) using 2wire USB dongles directly into phone jacks in our rooms.

Curious. Is there another device somewhere else that's doing the DSL work or are those USB dongles - provided by the phone company? - the only thing anywhere in the house?
posted by phearlez at 9:26 AM on September 9, 2007


This may or may not help:

Traditionally, when a jack has two lines (i.e. a single house with 2 landlines), the inner-two of the four pins are Line 1 and the outer 2 are Line 2. If you look at the plug of a phone, you'll find that most phones only have copper in the inner two.

This means, to accomplish what I think you want to accomplish, you'd need to:
-open the jack in House B,
- hook up the two wires which are currently either (1) on the outside or (2) not connected to the inner two connectors.
posted by JMOZ at 9:27 AM on September 9, 2007


Yes, very curious. A "normal" DSL setup is that you have a DSL modem plugged into one phone jack, and then all the computers plug into that DSL modem directly, using Ethernet cable. You have something weird.
posted by smackfu at 9:28 AM on September 9, 2007


I said: In reality you can just plug a single cable from your current router device into that port.

I meant: In reality, over at House A you'll just plug a single cable in from your current router device into the newly installed wall plug on that side.
posted by phearlez at 9:29 AM on September 9, 2007


So smackfu and phearlez: Yeah, we got a bunch of these 2wire usb dongles from the phone company. Nice thing is that we dont have a router (like a linksys or anything in the house). We have no ethernet cable in the house.
posted by special-k at 9:32 AM on September 9, 2007


Okay, got it.

Plugging 2Wire’s HomePortal or OfficePortal into a telephone jack converts all jacks throughout the home into active Internet links indicates there's another "master" type device somewhere in the house handling the translation from the DSL service from the phone company into the inside network.

SO, you have a couple choices here.

One, follow your existing plan, join the two phone systems, and get more of those USB devices. The upside is it's pretty easy and it's in your comfort zone (the system you're used to). The downside is it's hard to know if there's going to be an issue using that network over a lot longer run of cable. I honestly have no input on that matter: I know nothing about that network system or how robust it is.

Two, look at the master device and see if there's also plain old ethernet support in it. If so, you can do what I talked about above. The upside is it's very robust, a widely-used standard so people understand it and expect it - you don't get 12 questions into your AskMe before people realize what your system is :) It's also built into most devices already so once you put the wiring in you're done. If you run a direct burial cable from A to B you can actually run both the ethernet over it and the phone signal, provide you get something with at least 3 wire pairs in it.

Three, look at the master device and see if you can plug a wireless access point into it. Then you can leave House A alone and just put wireless devices in House B. It's plenty close enough to work okay. It's also well understood tech and so much of it is sold that it's cheap as hell.

Four, replace the master device and those USB things in House A and switch everything over to wireless. Again, well understood tech, common, cheap, pretty easy to do. Downside is you're messing up working systems, never a good idea.

The only major motivation to do that is that those 2wire things are sorta odd and rapidly becoming obsolete. If you suffer the pain now you're in common territory and it's easy to get replacements and integrate new things.

Really, living in CA like you do you could probably put an ad in Craigslist and find a marginally savvy person to come to your house and help you out with this stuff.
posted by phearlez at 9:56 AM on September 9, 2007


phearlez: You're right again. We do have a wireless router in the house but I didn't realize that it is also the router for the house. When I unplugged it, the internet went down in all the rooms.

One, follow your existing plan, join the two phone systems, and get more of those USB devices...

I guess I'll try that. I'm going to open up a jack in house A, and connect the same color wires to a jack in house B and then try the USB connector. The router also has an ethernet jack so I can try option 2 that you suggested. If all else fails, I'll just go buy a more powerful wireless router.
posted by special-k at 10:05 AM on September 9, 2007


A little more info. Typically houses will have a plastic box on the outside (the demarc), about the size of a hardback college dictionary, that the phone company's line enters.

This box is partitioned into the telco side and the customer side. Typically the telco side is closed and requires a somewhat unusual tool to open because they don't want the customer digging around in it.

On the telco side, the line(s) from the phone pole (or underground wiring) are clamped down in wiring posts. Then, a short connection is made from those wiring posts to an ordinary female rj11 jack on the customer side.

On the customer side, there are typically more wiring posts, each pair is typically connected to a very short piece of silversatin phone cable with a male rj11 connector that is plugged into the female rj11 on the phone side. Wiring from the house is then screwed down to the customer wiring posts.

You should be able to do all the wiring you need to do on the customer side of the demarcs for each house.

A little more info, including pictures.
posted by Good Brain at 10:36 AM on September 9, 2007


If all else fails, I'll just go buy a more powerful wireless router.

Nah, just get a bigger antenna for the one you have now.
posted by kindall at 12:44 PM on September 9, 2007


One thing to be aware of; when connecting separate buildings with copper, you can run into ground differential problems. The ground value in one building will sometimes be different from the other one, and electrically connecting them will result in a low level current flowing. This can cause all kinds of weirdness. The farther the buildings are separated, the more likely you are to have a problem.

Networking between buildings is always best done either with a fiber-optic cable or wireless. Fiber would be much more secure, but fairly expensive; you have to buy switches on both ends with fiber ports, plus the fiber. It's tremendously cheaper than it once was, but I doubt you'd be able to do it for much less than $800, even with used equipment.

A good 11g wireless router, on the other hand, would itself be pretty cheap, but you'd probably have to buy wireless cards for all your computers. This would probably get expensive, and it might not even run as well as what you have now.

Basically, from what I can see, there are no solutions that would be both robust and cheap from where you are. Joining the phone systems would be the cheapest solution, but has a fairly good chance of failure. Fortunately, you should be able to try that out totally for free and see if it works.

Basically, you want to disconnect House B from the phone company completely, and then join your first phone line wire to their first phone line wire.... then test with your little adapters and see if it works. If so, yay, buy a few more and you're done. If not, well.... it'll get expensive to do it properly.
posted by Malor at 2:40 PM on September 9, 2007


I'm surprised people think this is difficult. Yes, just make sure that the other line's demarc is unplugged, and then wire things together. You might want to put a note in the other demarc so that you don't confuse some hapless phone tech or renter down the road. The demarc officially marks the point at which the phone company's wiring ends and your wiring begins (the word is short for "demarcation point").

You have three things running over your phone lines: the normal voice traffic, the DSL signals which connect your router to the DSL provider's equipment, and the HomePNA signals which connect your router to all of those USB dongles. I'm actually kind of surprised that HomePNA and DSL don't stomp on each other...

Running a piece of cat5 ethernet actoss is also a reasonable thing to do. Ethernet is galvanically isolated at each end, so the kinds of small ground differentials you might see between two adjacent buildings wouldn't be a problem.

kamelhoecker, the ring signal is actually around 80V.
posted by hattifattener at 5:34 PM on September 9, 2007


You get one DSL connection per phone line (phone line = pair of copper wires from phone company).

By far the nicest solution will be to run an ethernet cable between the houses. Lots of previous questions on this:
WiFi with my neighbor?
August 14, 2005 3:53 PM

Long distance network run
July 13, 2007 5:09 PM

What kind of network cable to run underground?
February 28, 2007 9:37 AM
Also worth noting. 100mbit ethernet only uses two pairs of an 8-pair cable, so you could run the phone connection in the same cable :)
(that doesn't invalidate eriko's advice in one of the previous threads though - if you are running one cable, it is mostly a good idea to run two instead, you are bound to find a use for the extra one eventually, and it saves a lot of money in the end.)
posted by Chuckles at 6:13 PM on September 9, 2007


Only uses two pairs of a 4-pair cable, obviously.
posted by Chuckles at 6:16 PM on September 9, 2007


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