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Prodigy outsources connections

Prodigy, one of the oldest online services, will now rely on a third party, newly formed SplitRock Services, to get its customers hooked up to the Internet.

Prodigy, one of the oldest online services, will now rely on a third party, newly formed SplitRock Services, based in Texas, to get its customers hooked up to the Internet.

The move, according to Prodigy spokesman Mike Darcy, is intended to save money for the fourth-place online service, but customers should not notice the difference except in service improvements.

Prodigy still will be providing access in name, but it will be contracting out its network access, much like its competitor Microsoft Network, which gives its customers access from UUNet.

SplitRock will upgrade the network to provide what Prodigy is promising to be state-of-the-art access.

Nine years ago, when Prodigy was formed, it had only one way to launch a mass-market consumer online service: build its own network, Darcy said. But now, especially since Prodigy moved from a proprietary service to a Web-based network, there's no more reason for Prodigy to provide that access.

"We maintained and operated that network for years--almost ten years," Darcy noted. "There are people out there that are building the network that can handle Prodigy traffic. They can do it much more cheaply."

The deal with SplitRock will allow Prodigy to focus on continuing to build a network, he added.

Some have predicted that market leader America Online also will eventually get out of the access business. But AOL executives have said that, at least for the time being, they won't be changing their access arrangements.