Spectrum landline has no dial tone when plugged into house network

DagiusDagius Posts: 6 ✭✭✭
edited November 2020 in Digital Phone Nov 27, 2020

We just switched from Vonage to Spectrum landline. Under Vonage we were able to use the existing house network by back feeding the connection into a phone jack. This also worked for a few days after the Spectrum landline was installed. But suddenly it quit working. I can get a dial tone now only by plugging a handset into the Spectrum modem. When plug the modem into the house network the dial tone goes away (i.e. a handset plugged into the house is silent. Currently, I have unplugged all of the handsets, except for the one I use for troubleshooting.)

Since it worked OK for a few days I assume that something changed in the network, causing this problem.

I did some troubleshooting with the handset and found that the dial tone could be heard at the house punch down block (66) input line, but only if all premise connections are disconnected. With the dial tone disconnected the premise line 1 pair seems to be open, no short circuits or voltage lurking. There are 13 jacks in our 6-bedroom house, so I have not tried each one separately. But first I would like to know if there are any restrictions or conditions that I may have overlooked.

As I said above, there are 13 jacks in the house, with 13 gray cat5e cables going to the 66 block. But there is one more cable, a blue one, also connected in series making a total of 14 ports on the board. Does anyone know what that might be? [It's not the alarm, which is yet another white cable going from the alarm's RJ-31x biscuit to another section of the 66 board, which I have temporarily disconnected.

I'm thinking I may have to unwire the premise Line 1, find the bad connection, and rewire all of the premise wiring, a task I would like to avoid, because I don't have any pushdown tools and have never done this before.

Does anyone have any ideas what may be going on, or perhaps a less drastic method of finding the bad wires?



Best Answer

  • DagiusDagius Posts: 6 ✭✭✭
    Nov 30, 2020 Accepted Answer

    Final update. The noise has disappeared. Also, I put the bridge clips back in place, one pair at a time, in order to determine which wire pair was the culprit. The dial tone has returned, loud and strong, with all clips in place!

    In other words, the phone system has mysteriously healed itself, after being down for a week.

    My guess is that there may have been a loose wire strand lodged in the panel somewhere, shorting everything out. Pulling the bridge clips out somehow dislodged the wire strand. I'll blast the blocks with dry air to clear out any remaining debris.




  • DagiusDagius Posts: 6 ✭✭✭
    Nov 28, 2020

    Here is a screenshot of the 66-board and punch-down connections. The grey box below is the old POTS 'demarcation' box, which has been long disconnected. The "premise line 1" I mentioned above is the blue-white.blue pair, daisy-chained to each of the 14 ports. It would have to be removed to find any bad connections, and then rewired (Ugh).

  • SatchSatch Posts: 3,908 helper
    Nov 28, 2020


    I am going to ask the obvious question, just to make sure have you rebooted both the modem AND if you have one, the router as well? You will want to do the modem first, wait for it to come back online. Than reboot the router, wait for it to come back online.

    If that doesn't work or goes dead again, get a tech out and show him that picture with the explanation.


  • DagiusDagius Posts: 6 ✭✭✭
    Nov 28, 2020

    Yes, I have rebooted the modem many times. I have also rebooted the Ethernet router (Netgear),in the proper order, but it has no connection to the phone network.

    It is my understanding that Spectrum is not responsible for the house wiring, as long their modem has a dial tone itself.

    Not sure who to call in a situation like this. I think I can fix it myself, but would appreciate any expert community help in diagnosing the problem.

  • Lake802Lake802 Posts: 81 ✭✭✭✭
    Nov 28, 2020

    Hell Dagius- thanks for the helpful wiring block picture. Kindly let us know how many analog phones you are attempting to drive/connect with this analog port on the modem.

    Quoting an older Cisco mta spec sheet:

    "The RJ-11 telephone-style connectors on the cable modem can each provide telephone service to multiple telephones, fax machines, and analog modems. The maximum number of telephone devices connected to each RJ-11 port is limited by the total Ringing Load of the telephone devices that are connected. Many telephone devices are marked with a Ringer Equivalent Number (REN). Each telephone port on the cable modem can support up to a 5 REN load. The sum of the REN load on all of the telephone devices attached to each port must not exceed 5 REN."

    Depending on your circumstances, you can bypass the wiring blocks altogether depending on how many extensions you actually need working to resolve the issue.

  • DagiusDagius Posts: 6 ✭✭✭
    Nov 28, 2020


    " ... let us know how many analog phones ... "

    Not a lot, in fact it will probably be just one Panasonic Cordless system (w/ 5 phones) and the one extra handset I'm using now for troubleshooting.

    Yes, I know I could just run extra wires for those two. But the cordless system is mounted conveniently on the wall above the kitchen countertop, which uses Port #2 on my system. The extra handset can plug into any available jack elsewhere in the house. Every room and hallway has a jack. Very convenient, so I really want to fix the system so I can continue using them as we have done for the past 20 years!

    I am a software engineer with an extensive knowledge of hardware circuits, both digital and analog, but not phone circuits. I just learned about 'dmarc' and '66 blocks' a few days ago. So I've ordered a 66-compatible punchdown tool, and am prepared to rewire the entire block, if that is what it takes. An experienced phone tech could probably do this in an hour or so. It will probably take me a day or two. :-|

    I'm just hoping that someone will provide some insight or suggestions to make the fix as simple and effective as possible. For example, block seems to be daisy-chained wired for a second line (white-orange etc). Perhaps I could just hook that line into the spectrum modem as Line 1. Would that work? If not, I'll just rip out the existing white-blue wires and test each connection separately till I find the problem area (which I can leave isolated, to fix later).

    Have any of you seasoned phone techs ever encountered (and fixed) a problem like this?

  • karlbeckmankarlbeckman Posts: 2,252 ✭✭✭✭
    Nov 29, 2020

    I'm sure you noticed that on the punch blocks each cable running to a phone jack has a pair of spring clips on the active wire pair. Those clips can simply be lifted at one end with a pair of needlenose pliers to isolate that particular cable.. I would recommend that you lift the clips for every jack that you don't intend to use. It looks like the original installler did mark most of the individual circuit IDs on the punchblocks..

    Dur to the "Ringer Equivalence Number" limitation you won't be able to keep all of those jacks live with instruments plugged in. However, most cordless phone sytems can accomodate four or more RF handsets omanaged by each base (roughly similar to a data router with four Ethernet ports.) .

    And last, there are TWO kinds of telco punch blocks - Types 66 and 110 - which use different punch tools. Hope you ordered the right size. Some makes have interchangeable cutters to service both varieties.

  • DagiusDagius Posts: 6 ✭✭✭
    Nov 29, 2020


    " ...  each cable running to a phone jack has a pair of spring clips on the active wire pair... "

    Thanks for your input. Actually that helped quite a bit. I'm getting a noisy dial tone now on some of the ports.

    The original installer apparently did not use the bridge clips to isolate individual ports. Instead each port is wired with the cable wire on the edge pins and the telco connection on the middle pins. The bridge clips merely connect left-hand ports (3, 4, 5, 13 etc) to the right-hand ports (1,2,6,78,12) of the leftmost 66 block, which daisy-chains the telco wire down the right-hand ports, such that they can't be isolated by removing the bridge clip.

    So removing the five sets of bridge clips on the leftmost 66 block only disconnected 5 ports: 3 4 5 13 and [9 or 10]. I could not isolate the remaining 8 ports because they are still daisy-chained on right-hand side.

    But with these 5 ports removed I'm now getting dial tone at ports 1,2,etc. It's noisy (static and popping noises), but the dialer works and I can send and receive calls via wall-plate port #1. We never had that kind of noise before, so I think there is still something abnormal going on.

    I will get my Epsilont punchdown tool soon, and will try to isolate the offending pins. It's supposed to work with both 66 and 110 blocks. Seems like a good deal for $9.95

    Thanks again for your help.

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