Installing and Repairing Telephone Systems: The Telephone Network Interface Device

Jerry WalchStarred Page By Jerry Walch, 2nd Feb 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/3q4_euyu/
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>DIY>Electrical

There once was a time when the telephone company was responsible for all the telephone wiring in homes, but those days have gone the way of the Model T Ford. Today the telephone companies responsibility ends at their Network Interface Device (NID), that innocuous gray box mounted on the exterior wall of your home. They will still install the wiring in your home and repair it for you, for a hefty $100 per hour. Why pay that when you can do it yourself?

Whose problem is it?

This is a true story. A couple of years ago my daughter in-law called me early on a Friday morning on her cell to tell me that her house phone was not working. She was not getting a dial tone on any of the phones in her house. She had called the telephone company and they told her that they were willing to send a technician out to check the lines but if the technician had to come inside her home to fix the problem they would charge her $100 per hour with a minimum charge being $100. If the problem turned out to be the NID or on the street side of the NID they would be no charge. Being the intelligent young woman that she is, she told them that she would get back to them after she consulted someone (me) who understood those things. Five minutes after arriving at her home, I called the telephone company back for her and told the girl that the problem was on their side of the NID and therefore definitely their responsibility. She asked how I could be so sure, so I started talking about Butt Sets and Network analyzers which was enough to convince her to not have the technician try and scam my daughter in-law.

A lucrative part-time business.

Just as my daughter in-law called me when her telephone quit working, your friends, relatives, neighbors, and even strangers will start calling you once they discover that you know how to install and repair telephone systems. People will gladly pay you $25 to $35 an hour to do what the telephone company would charge them $100 an hour, and in some cases, even more to do.

Essential specialty test equipment and hand tools.

These are the tools and test instruments that I consider essential, the ones that makes the job easier, and the ones that make you look professional.


  • Fluke 3000 tone generator and probe set
  • Fluke/Harris TS19 Basic Butt set
  • DMM (Digital Multimeter) w/frequency measurement
  • Multifunction telephone line analyzer
  • Fluke Need-L-Lock Crimping Pliers
  • Acme Staple Gun w/staples

If you were to buy all of these items at one time, they will cost you, depending on where you buy them, between $350 and $500. I will explain what each of these tools do when we come to the article in this series in which you will be using them.

Checking for a dial tone at the NID box.

Every telephone installation or repair project begins at the NID Box. The telephone company and repair technicians also often refer to the NID Box as the Demarcation Point in a telephone system because it marks or denotes the point in the system where the telephone company's responsibilities ends and the consumer's responsibilities begin. The NID Box is usually located on the outside wall of a home, near where the utility meter is located.

Open the consumer side of the box.


  • Open the consumer side of the box by unfastening the screw securing the cover in the closed position.
  • The modern Network Interfaces Devices are modular in design, so once you have the box open, unplug the type RJ45 connectors from the telephone company's side of the box.
  • Plug in the Fluke/Harris TS19 Basic Butt Set and listen for a dial tone. Make sure that you have the Butt Set's tone—pulse switch set for tone dialing.
  • If you have a dial tone, make a call to verify the line quality.
  • If you have a dial tone and can make a call, the problem is with the house telephone system.
  • If you do not get a dial tone when plugged directly into the NID jacks, the problem is with the telephone company's wiring and it will be their responsibility to fix it without any charge to the consumer.

NOTE: If you are just working on your own telephone system and do not want invest in a Fluke/Harris TS19 Basic Butt set which will cost you about $135, you can plug household phone that you know is in good working order into the NID Box with the same results. A $10 telephone from the discount store will work fine for this test but the TS19 comes in handy if you have to trace out an open phone cable.

Next time

Next time I will explain how to use the Fluke 3000 tone generator and probe set to find a break in the telephone wiring even if the wiring is concealed inside a wall, floor, or ceiling.

Related articles
DIY Guide to Troubleshooting a Dead Telephone Line

Tags

Butt Set, Dead Line, Demarcation Point, Dial Tone, Installation, Network Interface Device, Nid, Repair, Telephone Systems, Telephone Wiring, Troubleshooting

Meet the author

author avatar Jerry Walch
Jerry Walch is a 70 year old freelance writer for hire living in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He has been writing since the late 1970s, and writes for both the print and online media. He specializes in

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Comments

author avatar Songbird B
2nd Feb 2012 (#)

Oh this Star article struck a chord with me Jerry. We had to pay a £75 call out charge when our landline ceased to function...It took BT a week to send an engineer out, and it was a 5 minute repair job as a cable had come loose, which we could have repaired ourselves if we had but known..An expensive lesson that was hard learned. Invaluable article as all your work is my friend.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
2nd Feb 2012 (#)

I started my own part-time radio and TV repair business when UI was sixteen years old and you wouldn't believe how many service call I went out on where the only problem was an antenna lead that have come loose on the back of the set. Back then we didn't have a minimum service charge. Today that would cost the hapless individual $50 to $75, depending on the company.

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author avatar James
18th Feb 2012 (#)

I take offense to your statement that the tech would try to scam your D-I-L.
"which was enough to convince her to not have the technician try and scam my daughter in-law."

That is really a stupid thing to say! How would he scam her? By driving 3 blocks away to the main crossbox, fixing the problem and then driving back and telling her it was an inside problem?

Most repair techs want to get the job done as quickly as possible and are happy when its an outside problem as you dont have to deal with inside troubleshooting and all the hassle it could be with furniture, crawlspaces and customers over your shoulder.

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author avatar Rathnashikamani
2nd Feb 2012 (#)

Very professional write-up, dear friend Jerry.

You've very invaluable experiences to share with us.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
2nd Feb 2012 (#)

Thank you for your compliments, Rathna.

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author avatar Buzz
2nd Feb 2012 (#)

Deeply appreciate you're very useful info you share to us all when it comes to cost saving DIY articles.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
2nd Feb 2012 (#)

I'm just happy that you and my other readers find these articles helpful, Buzz. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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author avatar Sheila Newton
2nd Feb 2012 (#)

Cor blimey - another stunning DIY piece. Now I know how to install a telephone. But I'll still play the dumb blonde and get my husband to do it!!!!

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author avatar Jerry Walch
2nd Feb 2012 (#)

As they say, "Blondes have more fun.:"

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author avatar Jules, The Cowboy
3rd Feb 2012 (#)

the technical side of Sir Jerry Walch

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author avatar Jerry Walch
3rd Feb 2012 (#)

Thanks, Cowboy. I'm multifaceted :-))

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author avatar Denise O
3rd Feb 2012 (#)

Jerry, I know you are going to shake your head but, the Dan is a Mr. fix it and as long as his butt is doing it. I do not have to try to wrap my wittle brain around it. I am a bit blonde on this stuff also, don't worry Sheila, you are not alone.LOL
Great writing and looks darn good, as always. Thank you for sharing.:)

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author avatar Jerry Walch
3rd Feb 2012 (#)

Well, you are certainly no blonde where Buggs Life and Cooking is concerned. The day of the Jack or Jill of all trades is pretty much history anyway. I'm just an anachronism.

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author avatar Vernazoa
3rd Feb 2012 (#)

I worked for Southern Bell telephone company as an operator then as a repair clerk. This is a wonderful and interesting write up for me. Thank you. My uncle was a Installation Supervisor.
for Southern Bell. He helped me get my job. I started out making $4.25. an hour. In the early 70's that was good pay.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
3rd Feb 2012 (#)

Thank you, Vemazoa, for reading and commenting.

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author avatar Delicia Powers
3rd Feb 2012 (#)

Thank you Jerry very clear and helpful information...!

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author avatar Jerry Walch
3rd Feb 2012 (#)

Thanks for the read and for the comments, Delicia.

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author avatar johnnydod
4th Feb 2012 (#)

I can do lots of things but when it comes to DIY I am hopeless, for a start I am left handed and that does not help as most tools are made for the right handed, but apart from that you only have to look at all the shelves in our house, I think all of them are wonky, so now anything that needs a repair I call out for a little man. lol

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author avatar Jerry Walch
4th Feb 2012 (#)

Well, Johnny, the day of the Jack of all Trades has gone the way of the Shade Tree Mechanic so don't be too hard on yourself. You have been blessed with your own set of gifts, one of which being creative writing...just ask "Dolly" if you don't believe me.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
5th Feb 2012 (#)

Sometimes mind is willing but the body is not for me! You are an inspiration, Jerry. Still there are few "buts" for me; top of them, get an expert help for a basic job! The comments are equally interesting and your "repartees"! siva

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