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We demonstrate a practical polarization-mode-dispersion (PMD) emulator using programmable differential-group-delay (DGD) elements. The output PMD statistics of the emulator can be chosen by varying the average of the Maxwellian DGD distribution applied to each element. The emulator exhibits good stability and repeatability in a laboratory environment. In addition, we demonstrate how this emulator may be used to experimentally employ the powerful technique of importance sampling to quickly generate extremely low probability events. This technique is used to measure the Q-factor degradation due to both average and rare PMD values in a 10-Gb/s transmission system.