In three of ours rooms, we have Cat53 wired and I can see the lines all running to a central location from an access box. Outside, we have one line just hanging from the exterior wall. I can't find a clear central access point, or a good way to use the exterior cable. After a few days of searching I wanted to come here to see if anyone had any suggestions.

For some more context, here's how it looks outside (there's a Comcast box right above it, but it only has the connector to the incoming cable line).

Cat5e cable on exterior wall

Inside, we have a small access box (covered by a white plastic cover) next to the main electrical panel. Opening it up shows all the cables coming in, but I can't see well where they're going:

Inside the access panel

Has anyone else seen this before or know how to set up a network in this situation? I highly doubt they would terminate in the electrical panel, but is that even a possibility? Really appreciate any help!!

Adding a shot showing the electrical panel and white access panel to the side:

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And looking into the access box:

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Pulled out wires:

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Looks like they were tied up/stapled to the wall back there:

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  • how are we supposed to even guess where the cat5 cable runs? .... you can actually touch the cable with your hands, and you can't figure it out. ..... how can you expect a useful answer from somebody that can only see a couple of pictures
    – jsotola
    Jul 8 '18 at 0:44
  • Where is your Comcast modem to be located?
    – Tyson
    Jul 8 '18 at 0:57
  • The modem is in the living room, connected up to a coax outlet there (which also has a Cat5e outlet on it).
    – user3217
    Jul 8 '18 at 0:59
  • @jsotola would be happy to provide more information if it helps of course. There's only one cable that goes outside, and I can't see where that connects to, so my best guess is they all connect in that box next to the electrical panel.
    – user3217
    Jul 8 '18 at 1:02
  • 1
    I have no idea why this got a downvote.
    – Tyson
    Jul 8 '18 at 1:37

You won’t use the cable going outside. You would use that if you had phone company DSL instead of cable.

To make your other Ethernet outlets hot you need to add keystone jacks at those location as well as the location of the Comcast modem. (Use the T568B wiring standard throughout— you could use T568A and it will work—568B is more commonly used—whichever you pick, stick with it for all jacks, or it won’t work)

You also need to purchase a “fast internet switch” (yes I mean search amazon or google for exactly those words). It must have enough ports for the number of wires in the basement (minus the one that goes outside. (“Unmanaged” is the type, but don’t include it in the search because not all have that label, but many do—- don’t however purchase anything with the term “managed” for this application.)

Using an Ethernet cable connect the keystone jack by the Comcast modem to a Lan port on the Comcast modem (we are sending Ethernet to the basement with this connection).

Now connect all the cables in the basement to the Fast Ethernet switch. The wiring cabinet may have provisions for jacks, but if it doesnt the simply way is to buy cat5e surface keystones that hold 2 or 3 jacks and just wire them inside the basement panel, then use short Ethernet cable to jumper from those to the jacks on the switch.

  • Thank you so much for the suggestion! I'll take a look for those on Amazon and start there. I just need to find the wiring cabinet (it's not in the basement or any other logical location, all the wires seem to converge at the electrical panel so I may need to remove the cover and see if they're in there).
    – user3217
    Jul 8 '18 at 1:29
  • That is your second picture I believe
    – Tyson
    Jul 8 '18 at 1:30
  • Ah okay. So maybe I just need to pull those out from behind the wall to get to them, since the access is quite small.
    – user3217
    Jul 8 '18 at 1:32
  • Add a pic that shows that whole box instead of just a small part.
    – Tyson
    Jul 8 '18 at 1:33
  • Sure thing. I added two: one showing the location on the wall next to the electrical panel, and a shot looking directly at it.
    – user3217
    Jul 8 '18 at 1:48

Tyson's answer is very good. A couple of additional points:

Termination Options

As already stated, you need to terminate with Cat 5e jacks. You can use surface mount jacks. But much nicer will be to use the existing location. Note that is NOT the electrical panel, just the box that has the white plate over it. I saw references to the electrical panel, but you definitely can't put your low voltage wiring in there. Based on the picture showing a large plate with 2 screws on top and bottom, it appears to be a standard 2-gang box/cover plate. Search for 2 gang ethernet wall plate and you should find something good. If you have extra places in the plate for more (future) jacks, that's OK.

Test Equipment

It shouldn't be too hard to figure out which wire is which, and actually doesn't really matter much with an unmanaged switch (which Tyson correctly recommended). But there is test equipment that can help to identify the cables, install jacks and to test the jacks as you install them. The names as listed will work well in Google & Amazon.

  • Tone Tester

A tone tester starts around $20 - pay more for better quality/longer lasting - connects to one end of the cable and injects a signal which you can find using a probe just be being near the cable. Great for figuring out where cables are going and for figuring which cable is which when they are bunched together.

  • Ethernet Cable Tester

An ethernet cable tester starts around $9 (they've come down a LOT since I started network cabling 25 years or so ago, again pay more for better quality/longer lasting) connects to both ends of the cable after you have installed jacks and tells you which of the 8 wires are connected correctly/incorrectly.

  • 110 Punch Tool

This is for attaching the cable to the Cat 5e jacks. Some jacks will come with little plastic pieces that will do the job, but a real punch tool works much better.

  • 1
    Oh, awesome, thanks for the helpful comment! I added a new picture at the bottom; looks like the wires coming from the individual jacks all terminate behind the wall. Looks like I'd need to cut the black strap holding them, pull them out, and connect them up to that ethernet wall plate you mentioned.
    – user3217
    Jul 8 '18 at 3:17

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