AOL would not say how many of its members were affected, but it did say the issue affected AOL customers who access the service via both dial-up and broadband connections.
"AOL is working hard to do all that is necessary and appropriate to help our members get to the handful of sites that are affected by this issue," Nicholas Graham, an AOL spokesman, said in a statement. "But doing so requires the cooperation and collaboration of other providers to help rectify the issue. Therefore, we are pursuing options and solutions with Microsoft and other parties around the clock to help them make the changes that need to be made to implement a fix."
The problem, which, is ongoing and prevents customers of the Road Runner Internet service 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. Some customers told CNET News.com that they were unable to access news site MSNBC, authentication service Passport and small-business information site bCentral. AOL and Road Runner are subsidiaries of media giant AOL Time Warner.
A Road Runner representative said the outage occurred as technicians at an AOL Time Warner network center were updating 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.
AOL and Road Runner share some network infrastructure services as well as some Internet connectivity, according to AOL's Graham.
The Road Runner representative said Wednesday that the problem still exists but that the company implemented some stopgap measures that are improving the situation for some customers.
"It's alleviated somewhat," the representative said. "Some people are getting through."
David Rahrer, who does computer consulting work in Lakeland, Fla., on Tuesday 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 thatits site for security updates and a separate that knocked out its corporate Web site.
In a statement, Microsoft said it has made no changes to its services or network infrastructure and that 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.