Facebook’s Internet.org was a visionary initiative aimed at providing free internet to the people at the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ who resided in areas where access was simply too expensive or inaccessible. Launched in August 2013, the initiative had already covered several countries, the most problematic being India. Facebook executives were experiencing significant backlash from many stakeholders in the country because of its perceived violation of net neutrality. Within this context, the case setting takes place in 2015 in Bangladesh as a negotiations between Telenor’s Grameenphone and Facebook’s Internet.org, and the country’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority on the way forward, if at all, in providing ‘free internet’ in the country. Several issues such as Facebook’s physical presence in the country, the go to market approach, the choice of the digital properties and revenue and risk sharing are up for negotiation. Each party have very different objectives that need to be resolved for the partnership to go ahead.
The case series is about building negotiating capabilities in establishing a strategic partnership in a cross-cultural setting (Americans, Norwegians, and Bangladeshis). The parties’ interests, positions and potential payoffs are at odds and can occur at different times. For example, Telenor and Grameenphone would earn revenue earlier than Facebook from selling data plans to free Internet.org subscribers. Facebook, on the other hand, would not know when or how much it would earn in advertising revenues from these subscribers. The Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Authority would earn a significant tax on each data plan sold. Students have the opportunity to model different payoff scenarios that can be then used in their negotiations.
Internet.org on the ground: The case of Bangladesh
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