FRI AM News: WCA report finds big gaps in broadband in rural areas; WisBusiness podcast features WHA CEO and President Eric Borgerding

— A Wisconsin Counties Association report finds broadband is universal in cities and villages, but rural parts of the state have big gaps in coverage. 

The research arm of WCA, Forward Analytics, released a report this week titled, “Broadband in Rural Wisconsin: Identifying Gaps, Highlighting Successes.”

The report cites the most recent data from the Federal Communications Commission that 25 percent of rural residents lack access to 25 megabits per second broadband, the speed which is now considered the standard. Wisconsin ranks worse than the national average and 35 other states.

Rural access in the Badger State to 25 Mbps broadband varies widely by county, according to the report. The highest levels of rural access are in the relatively small rural parts of urban counties, such as Kenosha, Racine, and Waukesha counties. However, in nine more sparsely populated counties — Ashland, Clark, Douglas, Iron, Marinette, Price, Richland, Rusk and Taylor — less than half of the rural population had broadband at that speed available in 2019.

“Without a doubt broadband access in all corners of our state is crucial for the success of Wisconsin. Over the past two decades, the growing importance of broadband for business, farming, school, and governments has been obvious,” said Forward Analytics Director Dale Knapp. “The COVID-19 pandemic has put an even brighter spotlight on this issue and re-emphasized its critical nature as we face a new normal.” 

Read the full story at 

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: The Podcast” features Eric Borgerding, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

As Wisconsin continues to report record highs for daily COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and death counts, Borgerding said it’s a “pretty ugly situation” right now for the state’s hospital systems.

“If we keep at the pace that we’re at right now, Wisconsin is going to be facing some really awful predicaments and could be in the very near future,” he said.

WHA is a co-chair of the “Stop the COVID Spread!” coalition, a group of business, health and other advocacy organizations to urge the public to take the pandemic seriously and adopt simple mitigation to stop coronavirus. One of the roles of the coalition is to amplify that messaging through public service announcements. 

As COVID-19 tightens its grip on the state resulting in “astounding” transmission, Borgerding says Wisconsinites are suffering from COVID fatigue. 

“It really is largely the result of folks wanting to live their lives … we have to do a better job, of just at a minimum, things like wearing a mask, socially distancing, avoiding large gatherings when possible, practicing good hygiene, washing hands,” he said. “My concern is that the pace of COVID spread and the pace of its impact on our health care system and on our community is just continuing unabated.”

Borgerding called on Wisconsin’s leaders to educate the public on how serious the pandemic is and encourage the steps to help slow down the spread of COVID-19. He added that the state does not have the luxury of depending on an upcoming vaccine, which may not be widely available for several months.

“No one can view this as a reason to sort of take our foot off the gas as it relates to really that urgent need we now have to do everything we can to slow down the spread.”

Listen to the podcast, sponsored by UW-Madison: 

— In an increasingly virtual world, the need for managing and storing data is crucial. 

With the drone and virtual reality industries growing rapidly, Mappix might be the convenient management platform drone pilots and companies have been searching for.

Madison-based Mappix aims to overcome the lack of data management in drone imaging. Acting as a social network for drone pilots and aerial imaging, Mappix will provide a unified resource for managing, storing, promoting and discovering drone images. 

The platform will allow users to more efficiently manage their drone images and media through geotagging, making Mappix a user-friendly system that means users don’t have to move their drone media to a centralized location.   

According to CEO Christopher Johnson, the company’s product is the first system of its kind supplying free drone pilot training. Partnering with Pilot Training System, the company provides a free course for users to become certified commercial drone pilots. 

Johnson, an Air Force veteran with years of experience instructing drone pilots at Wisconsin Aviation, wants to make this course readily available and free to the public. The course has been up and running since March and has more than 48,000 subscribers on YouTube.

Read the full story at 

— The Wisconsin Technology Council’s Wisconsin Portfolio report shows steady growth in Wisconsin’s venture capital, contradicting a recent event where the speakers said the state was seeing a “shocking decline.”

The Tech Council’s report examines all angel and venture deals in Wisconsin using a combination of public and private data and investor surveys in which they self-report deals. Recent figures show a steady growth in venture capital, from $276.5 million in 2016 to $454.4 million last year.

For 2020, the informal, anecdotal count thus far is $224 million, according to Tech Council President Tom Still. But the year-end count is not final until tax credit data comes in, he added.

In a Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce briefing this week, gener8tor co-founders Joe Kirgues and Troy Vosseller said Wisconsin has shown a shocking decline in venture capital. In a follow-up exchange with, they cited PitchBook, a capital market analytics service, and state news outlets for data within the last five years.

2019: $207 million

2018: $280.7 million

2017: $231 million

2016: $276 million

For 2020, the duo said the count as of quarter three was $17 million.

But Still argues that PitchBook is not the final word on venture capital in Wisconsin. 

“We find deals every year that have not been reported by PitchBook,” he said. For the Wisconsin Portfolio report, he said the team goes through and collects every angel and venture deal in the state that they can find, making it the “most comprehensive investment reporting in Wisconsin.”

Pointing to the $200 million-plus difference between the Tech Council’s and Pitchbook’s 2019 numbers, Still said the Tech Council’s 10 largest deals alone that year accounted for over $331 million.

While the numbers differ, both parties agree that Wisconsin falls behind its neighboring Midwestern states. 

In 2017, Minnesota raised nearly three times the amount of venture capital as Wisconsin, Kirgues said. And in the first nine months of 2020, Minnesota totaled $1 billion, while Wisconsin remained south of $200 million. He added that Michigan and Illinois are also outpacing the Badger State in venture capital.

Still said that he doesn’t doubt Minnesota is ahead of Wisconsin, as it is every year, or Michigan and Illinois, which are roughly twice as big. 

“I’d be the first to say Wisconsin needs more venture capital and needs to become more competitive all the time,” he said, echoing Kirgues that venture capital is an economic driver for the state. 

“If you want to raise incomes, drive population growth and introduce next-generation technology, venture capital is the best way to do it,” Kirgues said. “It is really important for a community’s health and well-being.”

See the latest Tech Council report: 

Visit PitchBook:

— The latest November forecast for soybeans in Wisconsin puts this year’s harvest at a near record, according to UW-Madison Prof. Paul Mitchell. 

The new projection is for 53 bushels per acre in Wisconsin, just shy of a record crop in terms of production. It’s the second-highest, coming in under the 55 bushels per acre average in 2016, Mitchell said. 

Wisconsin was on track for 54-55 bushels per acre — the USDA forecast was 54 bushels per acre in August and September and 55 bushels per acre in October.

“We had dry weather just at the end of summer, and it took a few bushels off in some areas,” Mitchell said. “Overall, it was a good production year for Wisconsin.”

The Badger State led the nation all year by at least 5 percent with the percentage of soybean acres in excellent condition. 

— The Dairy Business Association announced the program lineup and keynote speakers for its Dairy Strong conference to be held virtually on Jan. 19-21.

The virtual conference will bring together farmers, corporate professionals, government and university representatives to explore the future through innovation, sustainability and government policy. Each day of the conference will focus on one of those themes.

“We are excited to provide a rich experience for the people who contribute so much to an industry that is integral to the economy, communities and culture of our dairy states, and to the nation and world through the production of wholesome, affordable food,” DBA Executive Director Tim Trotter said.

The featured speakers include:

*Peter Sheahan, founder of Karrikins Group, a global consulting firm;

*Matt Lewis, author, senior columnist for the Daily Beast and CNN political commentator;

*Ray Starling, who most recently served as chief of staff for Agricultural Secretary Sonny Perdue;

*and Michael Torrey, founder of Michael Torrey Associates and federal policy consultant for Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative.

The conference will feature breakout sessions and panel discussions. DBA will also announce its Advocate of the Year.


— Even if the U.S. Supreme Court keeps the Affordable Care Act largely intact, health care will be plagued by high costs, complexity and inequities, experts told a virtual event.

The high court on Tuesday heard arguments in a Texas case that health advocates feared could lead to the end of the ACA. But a panel of health care experts said yesterday that the justices appeared to favor the continuation of the ACA. 

State Deputy Insurance Commissioner Nathan Houdek said justices should consider how the ACA affects people across the country since the major elements have been “fully integrated into our health care system now” touching almost every American across the country. 

The Supreme Court’s decision next year will influence how the new Congress and President-elect Joe Biden move on various health care initiatives. U.S. Senate control remains up in the air until early next year because of two Georgia run-off elections, so big moves on health care may have to yield to small efforts that can garner bipartisan support, the panel said.

“This is going to require a real modification to some of the ambitious agenda items on the health care side,” said G. William Hoagland, senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “But that doesn’t mean things won’t happen.” 

Plus, the coronavirus pandemic’s disruption of the health care system could make some changes happen sooner than expected. 

Concordia University Prof. Daniel Sem, author of “Purple Solutions: A bipartisan roadmap to better healthcare in America,” said one silver lining from the pandemic is that telehealth has become more important and popular than ever. This is due to the “disruptive nature” of the pandemic and demands placed on the healthcare system.

Prof. Christine Durrance of UW-Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs agreed telehealth is an important innovation for health care, but she said some communities could be left out of the advancement. 

“I do want to say that I think we have to be careful about the disparities that we see in health, health outcomes, health access, health quality, and the way that the COVID-19 crisis may be exacerbating those and the way that telehealth could potentially exacerbate those further,” she said.

Panelists said they saw some issues that even a divided federal government could embrace: preventing surprise medical bills, reining in prescription drug costs, extending telehealth reimbursements, expanding ways for the uninsured to get coverage and allowing for transparent markets and competition — a Trump policy. 

“As long as the Biden administration doesn’t undo some of the good things that Trump had introduced … and the Republicans are willing to give him some version of universality,” Sem said.

Sem also suggested changing the way Americans use insurance would make healthcare more affordable. He said switching to a direct pay method where people pay their healthcare providers directly for regular visits, check-ups and other non-emergency needs would bring insurance premiums and deductibles down while allowing healthcare providers to focus on providing care rather than dealing with insurance companies for every patient visit. 

Hoagland said adding some kind of auto enrollment system to the act would help cover people who don’t know they’re eligible for healthcare coverage under the ACA and have bipartisan support.

While America waits for a “purple solution” for health care, panelists predict the pandemic may lead to higher costs.

“There is an expectation that at some point, the providers are going to want to recoup what they’ve lost over the last few months and that will be reflected in insurance rates going forward,” Houdek said. 

Watch the video at the YouTube channel: 


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