PS-ALI Do I need it? Getting it for free.

I received an email from user who is having some problems interfacing with his carrier regarding PS ALI service, and was starting to question if his information was incorrect, or had he reached a customer service representative that was talking about a subject they really knew nothing about. Since I do run into this from time to time throughout the year, I thought it would be appropriate to provide a rundown on PS ALI for my readers.

Before we dive into the complexities of ANI and ALI, let’s put some definitions around what were talking about.

By definition, ANI is the telephone number associated with the access line from which a call originates. It is used by the PSAP to retrieve the ALI of the caller. ALI is the automatic display of the PSAP of the caller’s telephone number, the address or location of the telephone, and supplementary emergency services information of the location from which the call originates.

Private Switch ALI, also known as PS ALI, is a service option which provides enhanced 911 features for telephone stations behind private switches. E.g. PBXs.
But, do I need PS ALI?

This is where the confusion comes in the play. Let’s assume that, legally, every real telephone number is entitled to its own ANI and ALI record. ANI and ALI records are managed by the dial tone providers, such as the LECs. Changes and updates are provided to the Database Management Service Provider (DBMSP) through Service Order Input (SOI) transactions, which is a file of completed service order updates sent to the DBMSP by all service providers.

As you would expect, NENA has defined the standard formats and protocols for ALI data exchange, ALI response and GIS mapping, and makes that information available in the NENA 02-010 document,

Referring to the NENA 1.0 data format structure, the record is a 240 character fixed length record, and positions 108 through 127 provide 20 freeform alphanumeric characters that can describe location. Under the NENA 2.1 data format structure, this 512 byte record allows for 60 characters in positions 128 through 187.

This example is your primary argument to your LEC that you are only asking them to perform a service that they are mandated to provide using the standard mechanisms already in place.

What they will try to sell you at this point, is their service, which allows you to manage your records in the database. This is commonly referred to as PS ALI, but is often marketed under localized service names such as Pinpoint, PS ALI Connect and various others. The services, as well as their monthly recurring fees, provide customers with the GUI that enables them to manage their entries, and even update the location field in the records.

So your question back to the LEC is “Why should I pay for the ability to update a database that I will never update?” and “Aren’t you already being paid to handle 911?”

The line I like to use on the customer service rep is “I’m already paying you a monthly fee for 911 services on my phone bill. But if I don’t want to manage my numbers, and the information is going to remain static, why again do you need to bill me more money?” I then like to remind them that the telephone number they provide to my home address as specific address information on it, and yet I don’t have to maintain PS ALI service for that. At some point in time, you’ll get escalated to a supervisor, and at that point, you use the exact same logic on them, until they agree to provide you with access to make a one-time update to an existing record, or they escalate you further up the chain.

At some point, you’re bound to reach either someone that knows what they’re talking about and can fix the problem for you, or you’re going to get someone to just make the change.

So in the end, your argument points are:

  • You are already paying monthly service charges for E911 on all of your numbers
  • You are asking for the ability to make sure that the information associated with each of those numbers is correct.
  • You are not asking for a system to manage those records on a daily basis
  • If the LEC refuses to correct the information, ask them to provide you with a liability waiver that states they acknowledge your concern about location granularity, the fact that their database is not correct, and that they are refusing to assist you to fix the problem.

Document everyone you speak with, and keep a journal entry, including any research that you do on the Internet, including this blog. If you can’t convince your local carrier to play nice in the sandbox, at least you’ll have a nice discovery file to hand to your lawyer.