How to improve reliability of my telephone land line?

Is there anything I can do to improve the reliability of my home telephone, which uses a land line?

The problem is that it only works a few weeks at best before the line goes dead. There will be no dial tone, and either a faint hum and crackle or no sound at all that I can hear. Sometimes it comes back for a day or so, then it vanishes again. I ask Verizon to fix it, and it takes weeks for them to get to the job - one time it took almost 3 months. They say they have more repairs than they can keep up with. In any case, when they fix it, it will work a few days, maybe a few weeks, and then we start all over again. They usually say the problem is wiring on the poles between me and the exchange, but twice they have said the problem is bad wiring between my house and the pedistal (which I understand is the distribution point on the ground, in a little green box the size of a wastebasket, that fans out from a utility pole to the several closest houses). Twice they have placed a new cable between my house and the pedistal, so we’re on the third cable now, and the phone hasn’t worked in over a week.

As a consequence I usually do not have a land-line telephone available at my house. Unfortunately cellular coverage is very weak here, and though several of us have a cell phone, they only work occasionally at my house, and that’s if you go outdoors and stand on the far end of the high front deck, and the tree leaves are dry or missing. People in this area complain about unavailability and compare notes, and Verizon is generally the one people say works best, and that’s what I have, but it still is maybe half successful.

I don’t know why this should be so difficult. I’ve lived in more rural areas that still had telephone service. My guesses are that there is a secret missile silo or something under my house that messes with it, or Verizon has decided residential land lines are a doomed business for which they are going to stop infrastructure investment, or possibly there is some trick to being a telephone customer that some kind Doper will finally let me in on.

Have you tested it at the NID? That would narrow the problem down to inside or outside wiring.

In case you’re not familiar…

A little more information on the NID, with a picture. The relevant bit is the paragraph titled “Wiring termination.” The telco will generally “prove to the demarc”, that is, establish that the equipment they own is hunky-dory and leave you to fix anything in your house. One would hope that they would at least compare the results at the NID to the results in the house so they can conclusively tell you that it’s your inside wiring, but when I used to dispatch those guys the quality of their work was all over the board. If you haven’t already, plug a phone in there and see what you get.

If it is your inside wiring, the telco may or may not be willing to do repair work for you, but since it’s your property they’re going to want you to pay.

You need to talk to a higher up to discuss an on going problem with their hardware. The regular group you deal with will just send out another tech who probably won’t figure out what is really the cause. I would try emails and then letter correspondence addressing the poor service your house is having. This is even better if you have neighbors with the same problem and you can address this as a group with a common problem.

I should have clarified, but the problem is always lack of dial tone at the network interface box. I don’t recall whether I’ve had problems with the telephone units themselves or the house wiring, but it’s been rare, and I’ve never yet called the phone co about that.

Which reminds me, the threads that mate with the screw that holds the network interface box door shut are worn away, too…

They just replace our house line a couple months ago. They couldn’t be bothered to replace the box with the broken hinges. They just put the one screw back in to hold the cover on. They didn’t cut of the old line near the ground either. They also buried the new line only a couple inches deep starting about three feet from the house where their mechanical line machine couldn’t go. The problem with the line replacement being they sub contracted out the work.It took a couple years before a Verizon field guy actual called in for a line replacement. Depending on the soil moisture the line could be so noisy you couldn’t hear the other person.

I think at this point you may want to complain to your local Public Service Commissioner, or maybe the State Attorney General’s office. Essentially, you want someone with some clout to contact the phone company on your behalf. Worth a shot, anyway.

unless your state is like Nevada and has cut off all funds for the PSC because of budget shortfalls.


  1. I had the phone company fix it again. It worked for several days and died.

  2. I had a long conversation with the business office, who agreed the trouble I had was excessive and unacceptable. They arranged to have a higher level person in the repair department contact me to discuss options.

  3. The higher level person never contacted me.

  4. I just arranged with my cable internet provider to get phone service through them - they replace my “cable modem” (which is not a modem but a network adapter) with another one that also has phone jacks, like (I think) Vonage and similar services. It’s $30 per month and keeps my old number. They are to install it this coming week.

  5. We’ll see…