The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Decima Reports.Despite the many and various interpretations of what constitutes a level playing field in telecommunications, a universal starting point is that the regulated will play by the rules. Markets can only function if the rules are recognized and observed. In any market, breaches of the rules may result in short-term gain by one or the other party, but it’s ultimately the entire economy that is negatively affected by cowboys who call their own shots. The Gomery inquiry is living proof that the actions of those who don’t play fair can destroy trust in the way systems work, with the attendant financial damage that’s done on a broad scale.  The CRTC, with its decision to ignore Bell Canada’s premature VoIP offering, has compromised itself. The regulatory body, which carefully manages the release of each of its decisions the way budgets used to be delivered by finance ministers, has telegraphed at least its decision on access-independent VoIP services. Every day that now passes without a public declaration of its intentions with respect to VoIP is another nail in the coffin of a fairly regulated telecom industry.   Were the political situation in Ottawa not so tenuous, with no party enjoying a real mandate in Parliament to govern, we’d call on politicians to rap the CRTC’s hands for letting Bell play fast and loose with the rules. The reality, however, is that there’s unlikely to be any fallout from Bell’s actions.   Bell has hit the ground running and it’s time for TELUS and MTS Allstream to come out of the starter blocks. The CRTC is unlikely to step into the fray, it seems, and all Canadians have an interest in seeing robust VoIP competition from a mix of startups, competitors and incumbents.   If execs were tending to caution and patience in waiting for the ground rules to be established, the best course would now seem to be action. After all, everyone wants a level playing field, right?