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Road Runner glitch bars users from MSN

The problem prevents a significant number of customers of AOL Time Warner's high-speed Internet service from connecting to certain Microsoft Web sites.

A glitch is preventing a significant number of AOL Time Warner's Road Runner customers from using the high-speed Internet service to connect to certain Microsoft Web sites.

The problem, which cropped up Tuesday morning, is ongoing and prevents customers from accessing a number of Microsoft sites including Hotmail e-mail and the MSN portal, according to a Road Runner representative and reports from readers.

"A portion of our customers are having trouble reaching Hotmail and MSN," the Road Runner representative said. Customers told CNET News.com that they were unable to access news site MSNBC, authentication service Passport and small business information site bCentral.

Although Road Runner has not identified the cause of the problem, the company was optimistic that the issue will be resolved by Tuesday evening.

According to the Road Runner representative, the outage came as AOL was updating its routing tables and as Microsoft was doing some routine maintenance. However, in the past, the combination of those events has not prevented AOL customers from reaching Microsoft sites, the representative said.

David Rahrer, who does computer consulting work in Lakeland, Fla., said he had about 10 clients call with problems, primarily with MSN Messenger. Rahrer said the connection problem was compounded by the fact that his clients were getting an error message from the instant-messaging program that said there was a firewall problem and offered instructions on how to fix it.

"Everybody was reconfiguring their settings," Rahrer said. "None of them realized they were having problems with the connection. They just thought the computer needed to be reconfigured."

The glitch is the latest issue to affect Microsoft, following a virus that tried to attack its site for security updates and a separate denial-of-service attack that knocked out its corporate Web site.

In a statement, Microsoft said it has made no changes to its services or network infrastructure and said it is not seeing any technical problems on its end.

"Customers accessing MSN from an open Internet connection are still able to enjoy the breadth and depth of MSN's content and services," the company said. "At this time, MSN has only been notified of access problems to MSN properties from a limited set of customers, and MSN has made no changes which would affect those or any other customers."

Microsoft recommended that those experiencing problems contact their Internet service provider.