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Designing for Wall Plates

Once we sorted out the placement of the network connections, the next things to be considered were the possible integration of telephone (land lines) and coaxial (RG-6) connections into the same wall plates as the network connections. Our new home was built in 1996, and was far from ideal for either phone or cable connections. While phone and cable connections were available inside the house, the installation of these connections was of very poor quality with substandard materials.

Regarding the cable connection for the television cable, these were just wires that were drilled in via holes in the wall or the floor. There were no faceplates or anything that resembled a "fashionable" solution. As is often the case, the cable TV was not roughed into the house from what we could tell; hence, the lack of faceplates and properly installed connections. While these cables probably would have worked, they were ugly looking and were placed in the wrong locations for our proposed setup.

Since we knew we were going to need multiple telephone lines into the house for residential, business, and fax purposes, the four phone jacks that were in existence at the time we purchased our house were far short of what was needed. As with Ethernet connectivity, we wanted a minimum of at least one phone jack in almost every room in the house. To add to this problem, we wanted to continue to use DirecTV as our satellite provider, but also wanted to integrate the use of our off-air antenna so that we could continue to take advantage of the over-the-air, High-Definition signals that are broadcast for the local networks within our area.

Like almost all satellite receivers, each receiver requires a connection to a phone line so that it can "dial home" upon occasion to report billing information to the satellite provider (pay-per-view, for example) and verify the residence address for the reception of subscribed season ticket sports packages. Besides this, we wanted the flexibility to switch over to cable TV/ digital cable if we chose to do so at some point in the future by changing a few cables. We also wanted speaker jack plates to be placed on the walls of both sides of the family room for our rear surround-sound speakers.

It became clear to us that in addition to having a termination point for the network, we were also going to need some sort of a distribution panel for the satellite/ coax, as well as the telephone. A distribution panel seemed to offer the best solution, because it offered the flexibility to change the provider or configuration of the installation easily without altering the internal layout of the placement of the jacks themselves. We realized that integrating the network, phone, and coax connectivity into one plate would be the best solution for us, even though this meant we would have to rip out all of the existing phone and coax within the house.

A project that began as a simple network installation was morphing into something more complex, for sure. From our last home network install, we learned that it is more cost- and time-effective to pull the additional cables for the coax and phone at the same time as the network, as you can reuse some of the existing plate locations (i.e., holes in the wall). Choosing to add the coax and phone to the network installation made the most sense and provided the maximum amount of flexibility.

Now that we had a good idea of what an entire installation would entail, another key decision had to be made: should we try to do this ourselves or bring in an experienced contractor to install the cabling? After much discussion with my wife, we opted to use a contractor.

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