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BlueLight beefs up e-mail services

Kmart's Web store upgrades its paid Net access service with extra storage and a POP service, features analysts say are now expected when people pay for Web-based e-mail.

Kmart's Web store, BlueLight.com, said Tuesday that it is adding extra storage space and an e-mail forwarding service to its low-cost Internet access service.

Under a deal with Synacor, a provider of premium services for Internet access providers, BlueLight said customers have the option to use an e-mail forwarding account, or POP service. BlueLight added that subscribers to its Internet access service, which costs $8.95 per month for unlimited use, will also be automatically upgraded to 10MB of storage space per account.

The move comes as other ISPs and e-mail providers are beginning to charge for services that were once free. Last week, Yahoo's POP service became a paid one, with the company charging people $29.99 a year to use e-mail forwarding in an effort to boost its non-advertising revenue.

"Competition is getting up there," said Lisa Strand, director and chief analyst at research firm NetRatings. "It's a smart move on (BlueLight's) part in that they're trying to stay ahead of the curve...BlueLight realizes that if they don't step up to the plate and provide some of the services that are coming to be expected with a paid-for service, they're going to loose their client base."

Kmart, among the first large retailers to offer free Internet service, terminated its free, unlimited-access service last year and moved to a fee-based system.

Since then, the company has been working to drive up traffic to its online services by testing whether more people would access the BlueLight site under the Web address Kmart.com. In February, the company began posting the new Web address to the bottom of Kmart TV advertisements. People visiting Kmart.com are being directed to BlueLight's Web store.