Topeka vies to be Google test site

TOPEKA — A campaign to make Topeka a test site for faster Internet access is gathering momentum.

Google announced plans Feb. 10 to build and test new high-speed broadband networks in one or more places around the country. The company says the system of fiber-optic cables would deliver Internet connections 100 times faster than most systems now available.

Over the past week, Topeka city officials have announced they're completing Google's request for information from potential trial communities. The City Council has indicated that it's behind the effort.

And a group called Think Big Topeka is campaigning to build community and government support.

Google has given communities a March 26 deadline to submit the completed requests for information.

Mark Biswell, information technology director for the city, said the application is "very long" and asks for various facts about the city, including its demographics.

Members of Think Big Topeka said they think the city and the fiber-optic trial would be a good fit.

Jason Starkey, who is spearheading the effort, said bringing the network to Topeka would attract business, improve quality of life, and boost health care systems, schools and government agencies.

"This type of technology has the power to put Topeka on the global map," he said.

Think Big Topeka was formed Feb. 11 and gained more than 6,000 members on Facebook in less than two weeks. The group also operates a Web site at http://thinkbigtopeka.com.

The group is trying to build interest among other local organizations.

Dozens of members showed up last week at a community meeting on downtown revitalization and handed out 300 T-shirts with the slogan, "Think Big Topeka."

"We want to see a change in Topeka," said Kasey Clark, a member of Think Big Topeka who was handing out the shirts. "We saw this as a way to do that. It's not just one person doing this, it is the community as a whole."