African baskets woven from telephone wire

Ethan Zuckerman has a great post on his blog today about African baskets woven from telephone wire -- gorgeous handicrafts sold to the tourist market -- and whether the materials for those baskets comes from chopped-down telephone trunks.
Throughout the continent, fixed network operators are reporting significant losses from "vandalism" to their cables, both those buried beneath the ground and those hanging from poles. Thieves cut sections of cable to sell for the copper it contains - oddly enough, one of the worst affected companies is Zamtel, which reports lots of theft in the "copper belt" region of the country. In Nairobi, thieves have damaged the fiberoptic trunks, believing (incorrectly) that those cables had resale value. (I'm waiting for an art movement based on baskets of fiber that glow...)

These thefts have two costs for telcos - the cost of repairing infrastructure, and the lost revenue costs from being unable to delivery calls on lines that have, literally, been cut. Many telcos are expanding their use of wireless technologies in response - it's easier to protect and fence off a mobile phone tower than it is to protect cables that connect every neighborhood.

Link (via Make Blog)