The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Decima Reports. Is it time to start thinking about forbearing from regulating local telephone service? That was one of the key topics of discussion during a regulatory panel session at last week’s EXPO COMM Canada 2004 conference in Toronto and it shouldn’t come as a surprise where the lines were drawn.  Incumbents, on one hand, believe that it is at least time to start studying the impact of Voice over IP (VoIP) and wireless substitution on local access. As Janet Yale of TELUS explained during the session, it would be a constructive exercise to envision a fully competitive market to judge the impact of these technologies. Competitors, on the other, say that it is too early to talk about forbearance because it is still unclear how all this will play out. The CRTC has drawn its line in the sand. David Colville, telecommunications vice-chair, said: "We’re not going to forbear on the promise of competition." For the overall health of the industry, however, we can’t simply sit back and wait for these things to take hold and then decide how the regulator will govern the industry. The CRTC already takes substantial time to decide on key matters, which shape the regulatory framework, and we should at least begin studying how these disruptive technologies will affect traditional telephone. That exercise might be part of the process that Aliant began when it filed its forbearance application earlier this year. The hope is that the process will shed light on the current competitive landscape in Atlantic Canada and more specifically in the exchanges where Aliant is requesting local forbearance. But in this specific case, it is unlikely much will be learned about the impact of VoIP or wireless substitution since most of the erosion of Aliant’s subscribers has come from a traditional circuit-switched telephone system. If the commission decides to forbear from regulating in some or all of the requested exchanges, it wouldn’t be because of the disruptive impact of VoIP or wireless substitution. In the end, we will be back where we began, none the wiser as to the impact of VoIP, wireless substitution or any other alternative communications method.