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Several U.S. cities are competing for a place in Google’s “Fiber for Communities” program. The Internet giant is going to select several communities for installation of Web connections with speeds 100 times faster than anywhere else, with data transfer rates faster than 1 gigabit per second.
Cities have until March 26 to tell Google they’re interested in the venture. Google says it will pick one or more cities for the pilot project. “We’ll offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people,” Google announced.
Topeka, KS, population 123,400, has found a unique way to get Google’s attention in the competition—Mayor Bill Burton has changed the name of the state’s capital city. For the rest of this month, Topeka is calling itself “Google, Kansas.” The mayor even had road signs put up with the temporary moniker, one of which reads “Google, Kansas – the capital city of fiber optics.”
Bunten admits he is not exactly tech-savvy when it comes to search engines and high-speed broadband. The 79-year-old mayor told CNN.com that he does have an e-mail account, but he lets his assistants take care of his online communications and Web searches. But Bunten firmly believes that younger residents of Topeka in particular will greatly benefit from the faster Internet connections Google is offering.
“To have this high-speed where people can sit down and have lunch and still keep working is a positive for young people,” he said. “The young people are the ones that caught onto this and go to the Internet and asked people in the city to sign on as supporting Google coming to Topeka.”
Besides, the mayor added, it’s a great way to draw attention to Topeka. “It’s just fun. We’re having a good time of it. There’s a lot of good things that are going on in our city,” he said.
Bunten assured CNN the name change is not permanent. “Oh, heavens no, Topeka?” he said. “We are very proud of our city and Topeka is an Indian word which means ‘a good place to grow potatoes.’ We’re not going to change that.”
According to local historians, this isn’t the first name change for Topeka. In 1998, former mayor Joan Wagnon temporarily changed the name of the city to “ToPikachu, Kansas,” in reference to the Pikachu anime character, from the show and game called “Pokemon.”
This is one bit of good-natured “March Madness” we can endorse. In fact, we are seriously considering giving the mayor of Tinton Falls, NJ a call. We’ve already got the road sign made up, and we’ll be happy to put it in front of our building: