Bangladesh has ordered two phone companies to stop their free, overnight cellphone programs after parents complained their children were skipping homework to chat with members of the opposite sex.
"The commission has taken the decision following a flurry of complaints by parents against such free late-night facilities," a spokesperson for the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission told Reuters on Monday.
Bangladesh is a mostly Muslim and deeply conservative country where dating is discouraged. Parents complained the free calls were changing their children's behaviour.
Five mobile phone firms operate in the country of 140 million, with two offering free calls between midnight and 6 a.m. to attract the lucrative youth market.
Young people are outraged that telecoms have been drawn into the issue.
"Such an order is shocking and surprising," said university student Kaushik Ahmed, who is in Dhaka. "Parents should be able to build up their children properly and inject values in them before turning to telecom regulators to shape their lives."
Even the cellphone firms are vexed.
"We are surprised to receive such a letter from [the commission] because the customers benefit from increased competition," said Syed Yamin Bakht, general manager of market leader GrameenPhone.