Topeka, the capital of Kansas, couldn’t be happier with the online attention. “We are flattered by Google’s gesture, and we hope millions of folks will visit Topeka today,” says David Bevens, the city’s communications manager.
The Topeka-Google April Fools' Day stunt is all in the name of fun.
But seriously, Topeka is one of hundreds of communities competing to host Google’s broadband experiment, which is designed to bring super-fast Internet service to residents. Topeka went to great lengths to show Google how much it wants to win the competition: the city council voted 9-0 to change the city's name to Google during the month of March.
Then Google turned the tables and told city officials on Wednesday that it planned to change its own name. At least one person was skeptical.
“My first reaction was disbelief. We were concerned we were being pranked by a rival city,” says Mr. Bevens.
By Thursday, however, city officials and residents were pumped up. “I was thrilled this morning,” says Councilman Bob Archer. “This whole thing has been quite a process, and this competition has brought Topeka together more than anything has in years.”
Christina Wilow is a waitress at the Heartland Cafe in town. Although she hasn’t seen Google’s stunt yet, she knows how much the whole thing means to her spouse. “My husband is a Google freak, and he is very excited,” she says. He’d love to get a faster Internet connection, she adds.
Located on the Kansas River, Topeka is a major producer of grain and meat, as well as farm equipment. The town of 122,000 is also a big shipping center and home to Washburn University. Topeka would like to have broadband bragging rights.
“We’ve got an enthusiastic, progressive group here excited to work with Google,” Councilman Archer says.
Make no mistake, though: Google’s decision to promote Topeka on its site Thursday doesn’t necessarily mean that the town will be a winner in the competition. Google has said it will make its selection(s) before the end of the year.
But for now, it’s April Fools’ Day. “Whatever the outcome, the conclusion is clear: we aren’t in Google anymore,” Google CEO Eric Schmidt wrote on Google’s official blog.
Topeka Mayor Bill Bunton chimes in, “We’re back to being Topeka” on Thursday. “Now there are two Topekas.”
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In Topeka, Google April Fools' Day prank is a hit