Okay, so you may have noticed that I haven’t been writing any posts for a while. Sorry about that. Believe it or not, I have actually written some, I just haven’t uploaded them. Why not? Oh goodness is that a long story…
But basically it comes down to incompetence at The Landmark at Hatchery Hill apartments in Fitchburg. Do you remember when they were in hot water? Well, more of the same.
Though, admittedly, it wasn’t all their fault. But they certainly didn’t help the situation any.
So here’s the story, as short as I can make it:
When my wife and I moved in, one of the many (36) items clearly wrong with the apartment in our initial inspection was that the living room phone jack was clearly broken. It was bashed in and still contained half of a phone wire jammed/stuck into the jack where someone had obviously just yanked out a phone cord while it was still plugged in. Yes, it was that obvious to see something was seriously wrong from a simple visual inspection. One that clearly had never been done by management before we moved in, even though the manager handed us an inspection sheet with everything marked as “okay”.
Anyway, so our living room phone jack was DOA from our move-in date.
So when the AT&T U-Verse technician hooked up our internet and cable, he had to use a bedroom phone jack, even though the main TV, two computers, and network printer were all in the living room. But he was just a cable guy, not a wiring technician. So he couldn’t fix the living room phone jack. That was the responsibility of the apartment complex to fix.
This also meant that we had to have a wireless AT&T U-Verse TV box in the living room. Which just wasn’t working. I suspect that perhaps in many homes it would work just fine, but in an apartment complex where the wireless channels are all highly jam-packed, the airwaves are just too muddled. The result was that the TV signal in our living room, our primary TV, was quite often dropping out. If we were lucky in maybe a minute or two the box would eventually realize it had an issue and reset itself. (And then in another minute it’d finally finish rebooting.) If we weren’t lucky, it wouldn’t realize and we’d have to get up and unplug the bugger to reboot it, because the box would get so FUBARed that you couldn’t even use the menu to reboot it. And worse, because though not officially supported, you can easily run a network jack from the wireless box and run all of your other network devices (like two computers and a network printer) off of that line, that also meant that our internet was frequently going down as well.
Clearly, that wasn’t working.
So after repeated attempts to get the apartment complex to fix our living room phone jack, so that we could make the living room the primary line in for AT&T’s U-Verse modem/router, theyfinally sent someone over to look at the phone jack. And that wasafter we had to convince them that it was their responsibility and that we did not want to assume liability by fixing it ourselves, as management first suggested.
And then, when they finally got a technician involved, believe it or not, in no uncertain terms we were told to send them pictures of it. Because they clearly had no idea what a phone jack that hooks up to a DSL modem for ethernet was? That was already a Big Red Flag.
Well, wouldn’t you know it, the technician comes over, plays with the jack, and leaves. And I don’t mean fixes everything, tells my wife (who was the one there for his first visit) that it’s fixed, and then proves it to her or anything. No, I mean he monkeyed with the jack and then just disappeared during one of his many trips to the main junction box and back and simply never came back.
And when I got home from work, what did I find? That everything was fixed? Nope! Quite the opposite. Instead now not a single phone jack in the whole of our apartment was working. So not only could we not finally hook up the AT&T U-Verse modem/router in the living room like we were supposed to be able to do by this point, but now not even the bedroom jack workaround was working. Nothing was working. It was a Friday night and we were now officially without TV or internet. And all attempts to contact the technician or the apartment management to resolve this fell on deaf ears. It wasn’t until Monday morning, when anyone bothered to check their messages, that we finally got anyone even willing to listen.
Late Monday afternoon the same idiot technician is sent back out to our apartment. This time my wife calls me from work so that I could come home to talk to him as he works to make sure things get fixed correctly this time. (Since I’m the techy one, so I know how to speak geek.) I even had my PC hooked straight up to the router so that I could reboot the modem on command as soon as he tried anything. Still no resolution. Very uncommunicative and extremely unprofessional, the electrician insisted that everything was in working order and that the problem had to be outside the apartment. And that we had to contact AT&T to have them re-activate our cable service because this was all their fault. Since nothing was wrong in the wiring. According to him.
Now, I knew that couldn’t possibly be true because before he touched anything, we at least had a working bedroom jack. Where as now we didn’t. The only factor between those two points was him. He must have screwed something up somewhere. But just like the first time with my wife, on one of his many trips to the main box, he just vanished and never returned.
The problem was most assuredly not resolved.
But clearly he thought it was.
And once again, attempts to contact both the technician’s manager and apartment management got nowhere. We were still without working TV or internet. And clearly at this rate, would never get any. Not even back to the way things weren’t really workout out before with the wireless signal coming from the bedroom.
So I was forced to take things into my own hands. I cracked open the living room jack.
Cat5 used as phone wiring. Interior wiring was clearly blue and orange pairs as every jack in the apartment used that scheme. Exterior line … unknown. In fact I wasn’t even sure which wire was the outside line. But one thing was clear, that the living room phone jack was apparently where outside met inside. Strange. Most apartments have that in a separate junction box in a bedroom closet. But not The Landmark at Hatchery Hill. Oh no. All done in the living room jack, clearly. Well no wonder the idiot screwed up the whole apartment. All it’d take was incorrectly connecting the outside to the inside line there. Which obviously is what he did.
And I say obviously because when I opened up the living room jack, it was immediate and undeniable proof that the technician had no idea whatsoever what he was doing. Well, that or he was intentionally trying to break things. But more likely the former.
He used those B Connectors, beanies, those long blue sheaths with the little teeth inside that you clamp over the wires, to make his splices. But he had stripped and twisted the wires together first, as if he was using caps. The result meant that the teeth in the B Connectors meant to cut through the insulation and lightly into the wire – with no insulation in play anymore – had just cut deeply into the wires. And because the wires were twisted, the beanies didn’t have many places to grab. So as a result two of the four splices that he’d made had broken apart, the wires so damaged that they just snapped and fell free, no more connection. A 50% splicing failures. And as it just so happened, of the two lines through the apartment, it was one from each pair that was broken. So not a single pair from the outside line to the inside wiring had both a positive and negative connection. There’s no way in the world that either line had ever worked after he had left. So there’s no possible way that he could have even checked either connection.
So he used his tools incorrectly. He used B Connectors instead of UR connectors (like were used all through the apartment). He replaced the living room two-jack box with a single-jack box. And half of his splices had been broken by the time he left so that not a single positive/negative pair was left intact.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, four, count them four lines of the inside wiring were stripped of their insulation so that they could ground on each other or on the metal of the box and short circuit … if any of them had been working. I’m not sure if that’s a fire hazard, but it certainly can’t be to code, let alone safe or right.
Oh, he also removed the short lead from the wall wiring to the jack panel that allows you to pull the jack panel away from the wall a bit without disturbing the wiring in the wall. Because I guess that was one set of wires too many for him to work with?
Thank goodness they’d made me take pictures to send them before they started work, because it was those pictures that helped me to figure out how to fix things at least a little. I could easily identify the outside line from the inside line because the outside line was using the green pair as the main line. (Where as inside the apartment, blue and orange pairs were used for the main and secondary lines.) So that made it stand out which one was supposed to be the outside line.
What had the genius done? I guess he didn’t like mismatched colors. Even though he had access to the outside box, so he knows which color pairs are coming into the apartment. So he spliced the outside green pair to the outside brown pair. And then the outside blue to the inside blue, and outside orange to the inside orange. (Or, as I said, tried to, because both of his blue and orange pair splices had one line broken, so neither worked.) So not only had he not spliced wires together, but he had tried to splice the wrong wires from the outside to the inside. So even if he hadn’t been completely incompetent at splicing, he still had the wrong lines.
Now, I’m not sure what the outside line colors were supposed to be. I know green was the AT&T U-Verse line. But there’s two lines and I couldn’t tell what the secondary line was for certain. I thought I had it, but now I’m not so sure. But in that we don’t use the secondary line for anything, that doesn’t really matter for us. The important thing was, I was able to fix the correct green U-Verse outside line to our primary blue inside line. So now our TV and internet work again!
But I didn’t have the right tools. I don’t do this for a living after all. All I have are some old-school caps and some electrical tape. I also used the electrical tape to fix the insulation stripped from various inside wires to prevent the potential short circuiting problems. I doubt either fix is to code. And at some point I’ll probably have to fix things properly.
Because, again, this isn’t supposed to be my responsibility. But I can’t live without TV and internet indefinitely while management pulls their head out of their behind. Allegedly, we’re supposed to have a proper technician come in to clean up the mess. One day. In theory. That’s what we were promised the last time my wife contacted the apartment manager. So I’m not supposed to be the one fixing these wires permanently. What I did is just supposed to be a kludge to get us to the point where a professional fixes things The Right Way.
But now it’s been a week and a half and still no pro, nor word on one. I’m pretty sure that once again, for the umpteenth time, the apartment manager has promised something and then just either neglected it or forgotten all about it. So we’ll have to nag him for another week or two until he finally schedules someone.
If he ever does.
I may be making a trip to RadioShack shortly for a couple of UR connectors and be fixing this on my dime if I ever want it fixed right. Because the management at The Landmark At Hatchery Hill is apparently just as incompetent as the electrician they hired. And at this rate, even if they bring in another “pro”, will they even do the job right? How can I possibly trust them?
And no, this isn’t the only story of such incompetence here. There are plenty more. This is just the reason why I haven’t been updating InsanIT.net lately, because I haven’t had TV or internet!
And keep in mind, I’m a computer programmer. I don’t fix phone lines for a living. And yet I’ve already shown far more competence and skill than the jerk they hired to fix my phone jack. All I wanted was a phone jack fixed. There was no need whatsoever to mess with the connection from the outside line to the inside lines, even if they just happened to be in the same box. Just replace the phone jack. That’s all he had to do! Instead he takes out every single line in the apartment and then declares it’s all working inside, so it must be a problem on the outside, with AT&T.
So anywhen, yeah, I’m finally back. And some of the articles I wrote and cached locally, maybe I’ll even get around to publishing. Sorry for the downtime.
And keep in mind, if I hadn’t kludged together a fix myself, things would still be down. All for gross incompetence followed by patent negligence in replacing a single phone jack that should have been fixed before we even moved into the apartment, because it was very clearly broken by a former tenant.
Whatever you do, don’t move in to The Landmark At Hatchery Hill unless you enjoy this level of mismanagement.