Are we still in Kansas? Topeka changes name to tempt Google

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The Independent Online

A city in America's Midwest has taken the battle to be chosen as a test site for Google's new ultrafast broadband network to extremes. In a bid to be noticed, it has changed its name to the search engine giant.

Topeka, the state capital of Kansas, will be unofficially known as Google, Kansas for the rest of the month. The city hopes the move will make it "the capital of fibre-optics". While it is the most eye-catching marketing ploy so far by the cities jostling to win Google's approval, it is what the Mayor of Topeka, Bill Bunten, calls "just a bit of fun".

Mr Bunten said a groundswell of support had risen from the city's young people, who lobbied their representatives and launched initiatives such as a Facebook group, which now has more than 10,000 members. A group called "Think Big Topeka" has also set up a campaign to support the drive.

Mayor Bunten, who has held office since 2005, said one of the activists involved with the campaigns had the idea to change Topeka's name "and we thought it was a clever idea". At a special meeting on Monday, the city council also backed the move. "It's just a little different, and will probably bring some attention," Mr Bunten said. Officials will meet Google's request for bid information before the deadline of March 26.

Google said last month that it wanted to install a fibre-optic broadband network at a small number of locations across the US. The service, which would provide homes with broadband speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second, is 100 times faster than anything currently available in America.

It will not be the first time that Topeka, which has a population of 125,000, has temporarily changed its name. The city issued a similar proclamation in 1998 and switched its name to ToPikachu in celebration of the Pokemon, video games, with a reference to the Pikachu character.