If you don’t need a phone line for DIRECTV, why does it keep calling?

Several intrepid DIRECTV fans have noticed that even though their DVRs don’t require a phone line, the DVR will still make calls to a toll-free number if a phone line is connected. Why is that?

Back in the early 2000s, a phone line was absolutely required. You couldn’t order pay-per-view without one, and if the receivers didn’t “call home” in a specified time it could cause problems. The old TiVo DVRs were especially problematic because they got a lot of their data from a daily phone call.

By the late 2000s, modern DVRs and receivers were often internet connected, and today connecting the system to the internet is part of the standard install. Without a phone line connected, you’ll have no problem making purchases or getting recommendations, because all that information goes through the internet. Installers will sometimes ask if you want the receivers connected to a phone, but it isn’t part of a default installation anymore.

Which just begs the question of that phone call… why are the receivers even bothering anymore?

The likely answer probably has to do with the fact that disabling that daily call would probably require someone to recode the entire phone subsystem and then run regression tests to make sure nothing else was affected. Genie users with phone lines connected may have noticed that Caller ID finally works again after a long period of problems… maybe DIRECTV doesn’t feel like messing around again.

If this were 1990 when toll-free service was expensive, it might make sense to try to save money on the DIRECTV side by taking away those calls. If this were 2000 when home phone service was still expensive, it might make some sense (even though it’s a toll-free number.) But today landline phone service is usually a $10 addon to a triple-play package and that includes unlimited everything. Toll-free calls route into an enterprise VOIP system and are practically free as well.

So, we would have to guess… the feeling at DIRECTV is that the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze. If the calls bother you, just disconnect the phone line. Come on, how many calls are you getting on the land line anyway?

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.