The Internet has propelled 401(k) plans out of the "dark ages," opening the door to a largely untapped $1.2 trillion in assets in the small business market, according to a study by Celent Communications.

The Boston-based firm, which provides e-commerce and Internet consulting services to the financial services industry, said Internet technology allows online providers to serve the small plan market more efficiently and profitably, in addition to making it more cost effective for plan sponsors to establish 401(k) plans. The small-plan market is defined as companies having no more than 100 employees.

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