Free Again

Attention, Kmart shoppers! It’s the company’s latest attempt to keep you online and in their stores.

The beleaguered retailer is hoping to bring back the glory days of its bargain shopping with free unlimited Internet access of its service.

The San Francisco-based ISP is offering one month of free online access to new subscribers who sign up for the service during Kmart’s Customer Appreciation Days from May 31 to June 8th.

In its heyday BlueLight was totally free. That of course changed in August 2001 after its ISP partner Spinway went belly up and the company figured out that banner advertising wasn’t paying the bills. BlueLight is still one of the lowest-priced major Internet services in the country at $8.95 a month for unlimited access.

“BlueLight Unlimited Internet offers the value and service that Kmart customers demand and deserve,” said CEO and Kmart SVP Richard Blunck. “Both Kmart and have made some exciting improvements over the past few months. The Customer Appreciation Days and our free month of Internet service are our way of saying ‘thank you’ to on- and offline shoppers who continue to make us their discount retailer of choice.”

The service recently added additional e-mail storage space (10 MB) and a POP3 e-mail-forwarding system for customers free of charge courtesy of a deal with Synacor. eBillit has also stepped up to the plate to help BlueLight customers with their payments.

The enhancements to BlueLight come at a time when many Internet services have begun cutting back or charging for added features. BlueLight said it also continues to add dial-up numbers to its coverage area — more than 6,500 nationwide — boasting more than twice as many dial-up numbers as AOL .

But even free Internet access may not be enough to help the company during its “uncertain” restructuring process. Kmart’s new COO Jullian Day told reporters Wednesday he’s hopeful, yet cautious that the company can use bankruptcy protection to rebuild same-store sales.

The discount retailer said it lost $1 billion in April during its last quarterly statement and continues to lose market share from the lower-priced Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and trendier Target Corp. .

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