No more POTS. What else to do with wiring?
June 21, 2007 11:26 AM   Subscribe

No more landline. What else can I use my home phone wiring for now?

Just moved, decided to skip the landline.
Gets me innernet through cable modem.

It's a rental, so I can't rip it all up.
But all those RJ-11 jacks in each room must be good for SOMETHING.

posted by bartleby to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 11:45 AM on June 21, 2007

If you go to the Telephone Network Interface (TNI), usually located somewhere near where the line comes in from the street, or near your power box, you can disconnect the building wiring from the rest of the network. That's Step 1 in doing anything "interesting" with the copper in your house.

Some things I can think of doing in your house:

-Data network. You can push 10Mb Ethernet over most 4-conductor phone wiring, although YMMV. It's worth a try anyway. You'd need to make up some special Ethernet to phone-jack patch cords, running pins 1, 2, 3, and 6 of the 8-pin Ethernet connector to the four in the phone, keeping 1 and 2 on one twisted-pair, and 3 and 6 on the other pair. This trick was a lot cooler prior to the introduction of <1 0mb/s wireless>
-Intercom. If you have a few old POTS phones lying around, you can make a pretty neat intercom. Basically it's just a private phone system. You need to do a little soldering to make up the box that puts enough juice on the lines to run the phones (there are lots of plans on the internet, here's one). It gets more complicated if you want the phones to actually ring (a flashing LED is *much* easier), but it's still fun, particularly if you can get some really old "phone company" phones. (The big Western Electrics are my favorite.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:48 AM on June 21, 2007

I don't recommend this, but....if it's good quality phone cable then you could rewire it for Ethernet. Just don't expect much because you're probably going to have a lot of dropped packets and it won't run very fast.

I've also heard of people running a cable TV signal over it for short distances in a pinch.

But really, I've been in the telephone business for a long time and I hope you will be courteous to the next person who rents your place. You don't own that wiring, and if you don't put it back exactly the way you found it, you're going to cause the next tenant (not the landlord) a lot of grief, and probably a lot of money to fix those outlets again.

Oh, and if the landlord finds out you messed with them, then he/she may just keep some of your security deposit.
posted by 14580 at 11:58 AM on June 21, 2007

I think a lot of inside-the-house phone wiring is flat, not twisted pair. You would probably not have very good ethernet service if that were the case- crosstalk and/or noise. Try it, though.

I assume you have old land-line phones with nothing to do now also. You could wire up an intercom with the addition of a 12VDC power source. (Not finding the diagram online at the moment). You can use the yellow-black pair to run a buzzer.
posted by MtDewd at 12:23 PM on June 21, 2007

So here's what I was looking for, but I see Kadin2048 already has it.
posted by MtDewd at 12:28 PM on June 21, 2007

The problem with using existing home phone wiring for ethernet is that a lot of voice wiring is in some sort of branched bus topology. Twisted Pair ethernet is intended to be used in a star topology. That's one of the reasons for things like HNPA.

If each jack has a separate line back to some common location , you could probably add a switch or hub at that location run ethernet, but you may only be able to get 10Mbps.
posted by Good Brain at 12:33 PM on June 21, 2007

MtDewd, in the US, at least, home phone wiring is usually unshielded twisted pair. I think I've even seen some in my house from the late 20s that is fabric wrapped. That said, the patch cables from the jack to the phone are usually flat.
posted by Good Brain at 12:37 PM on June 21, 2007

Could you run audio over them to remote speakers? I'm not sure if the phone wires are robust enough to handle much power though.
posted by knave at 12:39 PM on June 21, 2007

Naked DSL, and alarm service dry pair are two options.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:26 PM on June 21, 2007

In a previous house I ran from my voip box to the interface box, and used my old phones. Not sure if that works for you, but it's another option.
posted by pupdog at 1:52 PM on June 21, 2007

Best answer: Dude.. home telegraph!
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:37 PM on June 21, 2007

Army field telephones, no DIY voltage needed as the hand generator supplies the power.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:23 PM on June 21, 2007

I did the same as pupdog when I had this situation. Basically, you disconnect the line from the street and then you can plug the 'phone connector' of your VoIP device into the wall. This allows you to have all the phones in the house work via VoIP, which is pretty cool.

Alternatively, I like the audio idea! Any chance you could use it to pipe audio from a PC in the study to your speakers in the living room?
posted by ranglin at 9:12 PM on June 21, 2007

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