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We have lived in this house 13 years. It's wired for a landline, but we've never used it. Previous owners must have had 3 business phones lines to the house. There is a junction box for those landlines on a finished basement wall. I would like to reclaim that wall real estate and disconnect the wiring from the box and remove the box and drywall over the opening (2" by 2").

I contacted the phone company and they declined to come out and remove the box, since I do not have and do not intend to get an account with them.

I used my non-contact current probe to see if the wires are hot, but the tool is not registering any current.

Is it safe for me to just disconnect all these wires, cap them with electrical tape, and stuff them back in the wall so I can remove the gray junction box? Or cut them, or....? If so, any pointers?

3-line Junction box

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    Your non contact probe senses ac. Plain old phone lines are dc (48V in places) so will be sensed. Is there a box outside to disconnect the eires at?
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Apr 15 at 19:45
  • Thx, I didn't know they were DC. There is not a box near the house on the outside; only the 2 1/2 foot high green "stump" junction "tower" that would have served the entire cul-de-sac back in the day, which is about 100 feet from the house.
    – dadu007
    Commented Apr 15 at 20:10
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    The key thing to figure out is what @crip659 hints at. Depending on how things work in your jurisdiction, some parts of what's in the photo could be the property of the phone company (say, the black cable, or even the whole box). It might be illegal for you to cut the black cable. It's probably best to give them a call and ask, they might want to disconnect it themselves.
    – TooTea
    Commented Apr 16 at 15:09
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    How does the wire enter your house? if its overhead, getting it removed will look nicer. If its underground cable, then ignore it.
    – Criggie
    Commented Apr 17 at 2:59
  • Third-party question edit removed important information: “It’s been a nightmare trying to get the phone company (Century Link) to come out and remove the box, since I do not have and do not intend to get an account with them.”
    – Reid
    Commented Apr 17 at 20:02

5 Answers 5

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This is a demarcation box - it belongs to the telco and you should contact them and get them to remove it if you want it gone. The wiring accessible in the top half is yours to do with as you please.

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    Maybe you can send them a fax. :)
    – jay613
    Commented Apr 16 at 14:48
  • This is indeed how things work here in my corner of the EU. No idea if it also applies to wherever in the world OP is.
    – TooTea
    Commented Apr 16 at 15:14
  • In the original question the OP stated what company provided the box. It is a company in the US. In the US it is common for phone companies to not want equipment back. The exception would be a commercial building with many and expensive equipment. Most times the company does not want to spend tech's time to recover equipment that is cheep or possibly outdated.
    – RMDman
    Commented Apr 16 at 23:42
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    @RMDman Oh, thanks for pointing that out, I obviously haven't checked the edit history to see that this crucial bit got edited out. Over here, even though the phone company never removes the cable, they still typically want to at least completely disconnect it on their end so that your cutting doesn't cause problems for the infrastructure and other users in the area. Cutting the cable also makes them really unhappy because it seriously complicates things when the next owner wants the service back.
    – TooTea
    Commented Apr 17 at 6:37
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    @storm995, The OP had originally stated in their question that they contacted the phone company multiple times about removing the box. However this pertinent information was edited out by others. Contacting the telco was done and was unsuccessful.
    – RMDman
    Commented Apr 17 at 11:14
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Utility

Don't cut the wires. You may not know why, now. But when you need to run 5V or 24V from A to B and you happen to have intact useable 18ga cables ready to go, you'll thank yourself.

Lots of IoT gadgets will be wifi but need half a watt to run. Cameras, room thermometers, outdoor sensors (light, heat, etc). (Oops, it's not #18) Pulling wire through finished walls is a pain, and they might be useful for something in future.

Remove the wires from the box, cut off the uninsulated ends (less than an inch), secure them tightly to a piece of string, shove them in the wall but tie the string to something.

Safety

I think that grey wire next to the black one is a ground. It protects you from lightning strikes being carried into your house by the black cable. You ought to find the other end of the grey wire clamped to a pipe or to your breaker panel or to its own grounding rod.

Inside the grey box you'll find the black wire has a grounding strip alongside the data bundle (I think I can see that in your pic), or a foil shield, or both. The ground wire or shield in the black wire must remain connected to your ground, presumably via the grey wire.

You must either completely remove the black wire from your home or maintain the ground bond.

You don't need the grey box but you need to keep the cable grounded if it's entering your house from outside. Use whatever connector you like, to do that, before you shove them in the wall.

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    That's CAT 3 cable; 24 AWG.
    – user71659
    Commented Apr 15 at 22:29
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    @user71659 Ugh. Oh well. I can't offer as strong an argument but IDK, it seems worth the 2 minutes to leave the wires useable in future if they'll be doing no harm hiding in the wall.
    – jay613
    Commented Apr 15 at 23:21
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    I'd leave it too. Power over Ethernet puts 25+ W over that stuff, so you can move power, it's just a bit complicated.
    – user71659
    Commented Apr 16 at 0:00
  • I think the black wire is coax (possibly RG-6) for cable TV and/or high-speed internet. Perhaps there was a time when one company was the provider for both POTS and cable TV service in the OP's area, or maybe the providers for those services agreed to share demarcation boxes. Since there's no coax coming back out of the top half of the box, it's probably unused. Commented Apr 17 at 0:06
  • It's 6 cooper pairs and an externally attached ground. Either that or there's a sh*t load of electronics behind the grey cover. A modem, a router, and 4 VOIP terminals. A NID Tardis. 😉
    – jay613
    Commented Apr 17 at 3:11
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I would cut the wires to the box, tape the ends and stuff them in the wall.

They are low voltage so not much if any chance for problems. I like to find where the wire come into the house and cut them there as well. So the wires are all dead.

I then would call Century Link 1 last time and tell them their box is on the front porch, ( or by the front door, or next to the garage...you know what I'm getting at.)

Then when it's been there after 30 days, throw it out.

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    Just adding if the Op is worried about the low voltage, they can avoid touching the bare wire and cut one wire at a time. Commented Apr 15 at 19:43
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    I've also been known to detach overhead cables at my eave and coil them up on the pole, neatly tied. Heck with that mess hanging over my back yard for no reason.
    – isherwood
    Commented Apr 15 at 19:43
  • It's the big thick black wire that scares me a little...you can see it in the photo...it runs into a separate compartment that can only be opened with some proprietary tool. The one that says "Telephone company access only".
    – dadu007
    Commented Apr 15 at 20:14
  • One, it's not low voltage. Telephone ringing voltage is max 105 V 25 Hz AC. That's line voltage in Japan. Two, the locked portion contains grounding and overvoltage protection circuitry, which is relevant if the phone line were to be struck by lightning, or a car crashes into a power pole and 12.5 kV distribution lines get tangled up. It most certainly is needed by NEC if it's a live line, I don't know what it says for disconnected wiring.
    – user71659
    Commented Apr 15 at 22:34
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    @TobySpeight The original question stated the service provider was CenturyLink before it was edited away.
    – user71659
    Commented Apr 16 at 18:17
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I wouldn't bother. Stuff the wires back where you took them and be done with it. I dropped my landline last year. All the underground wire and outside box is still there but dead. There're no phones in the house other than the one I carry around.

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  • Except that the OP want to be rid of the box, which shouldn't be stuffed into the wall and hidden.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Apr 18 at 15:05
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Telco used to be notorious for abandoning equipment in place; disconnecting and picking it up would cost more than it was worth. So I'd say do whatever you need to and don't worry about it.

I'm not sure it's worth keeping the wires for reuse if you're sure you won't be running land lines again. But you might be able to use them to pull other wiring -- Ethernet cable, for example -- so I agree that it might be a good idea to keep the end accessible even if you remove the junction box.

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