[caption id="attachment_36790" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="President Obama emphasized the importance of high-speed internet access in his State of the Union address."][/caption]

Up in rural northern Vermont, it took until the 1960s to run power lines to some towns—decades after the rest of America got turned on. These days, it's the digital revolution that remains but a rumor in much of rural America.

Dial-up user Val Houde knows this as well as anybody. After moving to East Burke, Vt., four years ago, the 51-year-old mother of four took a correspondence course for...

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