The city of Topeka has a new name: "Google, Kansas." The local council unanimously approved the change in a proclamation signed by Mayor Bill Bunten on Monday. On the surface, naming a city of 122,000 people after an Internet search engine might seem silly. But the leaders of Google, Kan., say there's a serious explanation for what they did. (Watch a campaign to bring Google to Kansas.) Here's what's going on:
Is Topeka really named Google now?
Officially, no. It can't legally change its name because it plans to change it back at the end of March. Besides, "Google owns all sorts of intellectual property pertaining to its brand name." The town merely issued a proclamation encouraging people to call it Google for the next few weeks.
Why would it do that?
To get Google's attention. Google recently announced plans to roll out an ultra fast fiber optic broadband Internet service, and Google (the town) wants Google (the company) to pick it as a test site. Hence Topeka's complete, if temporary, new moniker: "Google, Kansas -- capital city of fiber optics."
How fast will Google broadband be?
The company says on its blog that, at 1 gigabit per second, it will be 100 times faster than the connections most Americans have access to today. That's 20 times faster than Verizon's speediest service. Google says customers will be able to download a high-definition, full-length feature film in less than five minutes. A common slow broadband download might take three hours.
Why is Topeka in such a rush?
Google says its goal is to make Internet access "faster and better for everyone." But in reality, its new service is just an experiment, and it will only be made available to 50,000 customers at the start, with up to 500,000 getting it eventually. So the company put out a request for interested communities, and Topeka jumped.
Is Topeka worried calling itself "Google" looks silly?
No, Topeka's been called worse. In August 1998 the council issued another proclamation changing the city's name to "ToPikachu," after Topeka hosted the nationwide kickoff of the "Pokemon" media franchise, which features fictional creatures called "Pikachu." One council member said that a town willing to name itself after "a small doll that sounds like I sneezed" can certainly call itself Google.