Find the Phone Closet

We want to find an incoming DSL line.

Phone boxes and phone cabinets are often confusing, so I am posting a whole bunch of pictures that will help you to locate the phone facilities in your building. Scan through all the pictures and see if anything looks like what you have in your home or apartment building.

Let's look for the phone facilities....

Start by going out to the alley and look for the telephone pole. You will see some wires going from the telephone pole to your building, something like this:

telephone pole

Nearby, you will find what I call the "phone closet". This might be a closet, or it might be a cabinet, or it might be a metal box on the wall. In my building on 6th Street in Santa Monica, it's a closet in the back of the building facing the alley, with an unlocked sliding door, as shown in the picture above. The phone closet is a white closet with a sliding door, in the lower left of the picture.

There are many styles of phone cabinets and closets.

In a single family home, it might be a "NID", or network interface device, which is a little plastic box something like this:


The box is opened with the screw on the right side. The inside looks like this:

nid open

There is more than one size of NID. This one has room for 6 lines and has a test point for each one.

Many medium sized apartments will have a metal cabinet on the wall, something like this:

telephone box

Notice the two screws on the right side that allow you to open the box. You will need a flat screwdriver. When it's open it looks like this:

telephone box open

Notice the 66 block lower left, full of colorful telephone wires. There is room for several dozen lines. Lower right, we see a couple of line tags, one blue and one yellow, that tell us about some of the lines that are installed at this address. There should be a tag for your line with a recent date on it.

On the far left, in the lower corner of the coor, notice the white sticker. Verizon/Frontier staff usually post these when they come out. This will tell you the last time a Frontier person was here working.

This box looks like a telephone box but is in fact a cable box:

cable box

There are several clues. It's not quite the right color. It has no screws to open it. Instead, it's locked from the bottom. It does not have the name of the telephone company on it. And it is connected to the boxy cable conduits and coaxial cable lines are inside. There are no telephone wires. This is not the box we are looking for.

Many Santa Monica apartment buildings will have a closet on the exterior for telephone and power meters, like this:

telephone closet

Or like this:



If you open it up sometimes you will find power meters like this:

power meters

This means telephone wires are probably nearby. Keep looking.

You might find one of the green cabinets (see picture further up) or you might just find a bunch of wires, like this:

In my building of 11 units, it's a closet out by the garage, next to the power meters.

You will know you have found the right box or closet because you will see the multicolored wires, and tags from Verizon/Frontier/GTE.

For my building in Santa Monica, here's what the phone closet looks like inside:

phone closet wires

We see here a massive spiders nest of colored cables and two "66 blocks" which are terminal block things where the wires are tied down.

In my hand I am holding a line tag that identifies one of the incoming dry loop lines.

The wires are often a mess, but we don't need to make sense of it. All we need to do is to find the tag that has the telephone number we are looking for.

phone room

Note the mass of colorful wires on the left. These are the phone wires. When you are looking for phone lines, always look for the colorful wires.

Hopefully the facilites in your building will look like one of these images.

Once you have located the phone facilities, the next step is to look for a line tag.

We have a separate page discussing this issue, with some pictures, but if you look at the pictures above you will see various blue and yellow paper phone tags. If your dry loop has been properly installed there should be a tag with the dummy telephone number for your dry loop and a date that is fairly recent.

About half the time they tag the lines when installed and about half the time we have to call and ask them to come out and attach the tag.

Remember, every building has some kind of phone facilities, and it's almost never locked, so you should be able to find it.

If you can't find it, take a deep breat, go outside again, and follow the wires from the telephone pole. You will find it.