How-To: Wiring VoIP to your phone jacks

Dear Ma Bell,

We've been together for a long time, but we think it's time for us to take a break up. It's just... we met someone else; someone who will hook us up with free long distance. But don't worry, we'll give you a call sometime next year when we're looking for faster internet.

In today's How-To, we're taking the diagonal cutters to the Ma Bell umbilical cord and hooking up our voice over IP adapter so we can use our old phone jacks. No soldering irons or caustic acid required. This time.

For today's How-To, you'll probably need:

  • Screwdriver, pliers, wire cutters

  • Extra phone wires

  • Splice connectors (optional)

  • VoIP Adapter

The idea for this one is pretty easy. We'll visit the ugly box that Ma Bell graciously left on the side of every single building, ever. Inside it, we'll cut the leash and take control. Back inside, we'll hook up our handy VoIP adapter so we can use the existing phone jacks that run all over the house.

Most phones get power from the phone line, so there is a limit to the number of phones you can connect to a VoIP adapter. Your mileage will vary, but you'll probably be able to use three phones with the average adapter. If you've got lots of voltage sucking phones, then you might want to pick up a ring booster.

We'll be semi-violating this warning label. If you connected it to the wall now, the voltage from the phone line would probably do something bad to it. Before hooking anything up a trip to the telephone companies box is in order.

Our typical access box. There's usually some sort of customer access area. In this case, we have to loosen a screw and the cover pops open.
[Update: If you don't mind going into the telco side of the box, you can probably disconnect the line without cutting]

Proper application of a screwdriver (or a dime) gains access to this rat's nest.

The module pops open to reveal some color coded screws. Since our VoIP line will be the primary phone, we're disconnecting the red and green leads. Since some lazy tech didn't connect everything, we had to splice together the two sets of red and green wires. Normal phone wiring has two pairs. If you're keeping your regular line, or have DSL on it, the yellow and black wires are the pair to use for a secondary line throughout the house.

The rebel inside is gonna enjoy this part. Sure we could have unscrewed the terminals, but snipping those cables was more fun. If you leave any wire attached, make sure they aren't shorted. Most phone companies leave out of service phone lines powered.

Inside the box, two of the wires were terminated at the screw terminals. To complete the internal network, they need to be spliced together. We used standard weatherproof splice connectors available from any hardware store. To attach them, just insert the unstripped wires and squeeze down the circle with a pair of pliers.

The wiring is completed. The first line is disconnected, and the remaining leads are now spliced together. Now, the center pair of wires of all the phone jacks are connected to create in internal phone network.

Our packet8 adapter just has three ports on the back. The Ethernet goes to our router, and now it's safe to connect the phone jack to a wall outlet inside the house. Now our VoIP adapter can live happily on our server rack, where it gets a UPS, and delivers phone service to the rest of our house through a pre-existing phone jack.

Bye, Ma. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.