Phone dead, internet working. Impossible?  Well no, actually.

As an engineer, I was utterly baffled the first time that I encountered this problem . The customer must be wrong. 

A short conversation.

“Are you sure that you’re not using next door’s wifi?”


(I check the SSID (transmitted identity) of the router – it is actually working).

“Well, this can’t possibly be happening.”

“But it is.”

I ring the customer’s number. It does not ring at their end, but just gives a busy tone.


Sadly, if reported to the service provider, some of their customer service operatives won’t believe that this “phone dead, internet working” situation is happening either.  It’s certainly not on their script. However, don’t worry…

What’s going on (or gone off)?

Quite simply, one of the mysteries of broadband is that it can function on a single core of a pair of wires. That is, out of the two, one can be disconnected, and it will still work. However, it will work around 70% more slowly than normal.

But I didn’t break anything…

Disconnection of one of the wires has happened somewhere on the Openreach network in most cases. Unfortunately, you can do very little except report this via your service provider.

A safeguard. Some things to check.

However, just to be sure of not landing yourself with a hefty bill, check first that nothing has happened to the incoming cable to your property.

Does it run up the side of your house through ivy?, Have you recently trimmed it (the cable, as well as the ivy)?

Did you have work carried out on your drive? Has an operative has been a little too keen looking for human remains with their mini-digger?

Did Fifi, your beloved middle-aged miniature poodle bitch have yet another menopausal fit of rage and sink her teeth into the cable?

Therefore, if the damage has been obviously done to the cable on your property, then maybe it would be cheaper to contact a local independent engineer who could repair and reinstate for a lot less than Openreach. We are in touch with many across the UK. Drop us a line.

Another safeguard.

Meanwhile, if there is nothing physically wrong, it’s still worth doing a basic test. Remove the front of your master socket and test your incoming line when disconnected from anything else in your property. This is one of the key advantages of not messing with your master socket, as we wrote here. Test from here out via your line back to the Openreach’s network.

Does the fault remain? Yes? Hurrah! You’ve just proved that the fault isn’t your fault. The customer service operative will ask if you’ve done this anyway, so it’s worth doing. Over to your provider to sort this out.

The usual threats.

They will, of course, warn you that, if there has been any damage at your end, you risk being billed for an Openreach call-out. This is normal procedure for them – try not to be intimidated. If you’ve checked thoroughly, and tested from the master socket, just tolerate this scripted robot-speak and insist on a visit from Openreach.  Bless ”em – the call centre are only doing what they are paid to do.

An engineer near you

I hope that this helps explain this “phone dead, internet working” situation. Sadly, we can’t provide a free help desk service via email, but if we do answer your query for free, Google and/or Facebook feedback is welcomed. Please be in touch if you are somewhere near us in North East England, and need an engineer.