Test the quality of your phone line

I just moved into a small town in the mountains and now work in telecommuter heaven. But data transfers with my V.90 56Kbps modem are definitely slower here. Sometimes I can't get a connection at all. Is there any way I can test the quality of my telephone line?

- Cheri Gordon

In general, telephone-line quality is very good in Australia. But poor connections do exist in some rural areas (a fact borne out by a spate of letters in recent editions of Readers' Forum). Poor line quality can dramatically affect modem performance.

To determine whether poor line quality is responsible for your modem's slow performance, do the following. First, if you have other devices connected to your modem's telephone line, such as a fax machine or other telephones, remove them and see if the situation improves. Extra wire from other devices can degrade the modem's signal, and cheap phones can add "noise" (basically an extraneous signal) to the line.

Try attaching a phone to the modem line, pick up the receiver, and listen while you dial a single digit (to remove the dial tone). If you hear static, crackling or hissing after the number's tone, you may have excessive line noise. If you do, call Telstra on 13 2203 and ask the operator to check your phone line. On a normal voice line, Telstra will only test for voice quality and low data quality, so a successful test does not guarantee that your line is completely free of noise as far as your high-speed modem is concerned. If your line passes Telstra's testing, and data transfers are still slow, try lowering the speed of your modem. In most cases, a slower modem speed will result in a more reliable connection.

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