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RealTime IT News

No More Loitering At BlueLight.com

Bluelight.com, the Internet service arm of retailing giant KMart only recently brought back to the fold, is yet again changing its monthly access strategy in an effort to reach profitability.

That's means the almost seven million people who registered for 12 hours of free Internet access a month at the popular free ISP are going to be looking for another provider when KMart pulls the plug Aug. 29. It also means millions of people will start scrambling for yet another provider who can get them online without having to pay for the service.

Officials will transfer existing BlueLight Premium subscribers, who pay $9.95 a month for unlimited service, to the new billing structure immediately.

The not-free-anymore ISP has been busy the past seven months, at first providing a free access model with its purchase of now-defunct free ISP Spinway, then a free-to-pay model to curtail heavy Internet usage and lastly Monday's announcement to charge $8.95 a month for unlimited Internet access.

It's the latest move by the provider's new owners to bring profitability to a venture first spawned as an experiment to bring its legions of real world customers online with a branded Internet experience.

So far, the experiment has met with mixed results: KMart's online shopping forum has seen a large increase in sales since the free Internet service was rolled out in December, 2000. But on the flip side, the retailer has been unable to wring a profit out of the ISP side of the house.

Heidi Gibson, BlueLight.com general manager, said the new pricing structure is still geared to keep it's bricks-and-clicks experiment in play, and at a better price than many competitors.

"BlueLight.com and KMart's goal is to offer the consumer the best value possible, online and in store," Gibson said. "The BlueLight Unlimited Internet Services matches value with quality to truly meet the needs of our loyal customers. Americans shouldn't have to pay nearly $25 each month for the privilege of surfing the Internet and shopping online."

There's not much out there for the person unwilling to put a value to Internet service; in fact the number of nationwide providers has dropped to a handful of providers who still cling to the free model to match up bargain hunters with online advertisers. They include United Online, dotNow, Address.com, StartFree.com and Searfoss Promotions.

United Online, the marriage of NetZero and Juno Online Services, Inc. , stands the best chance for survival, since it is the only provider able to bolster its flagging advertising sales with revenues generated by paying customers to its premium services.