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BlueLight illuminates limits to free Net service

The Internet arm of Kmart unveils the changes to its Internet access service, which include limiting customers' free Web access time and charging a fee for additional usage.

    BlueLight.com on Wednesday unveiled the changes to its Internet access service, which include limiting customers' free Web access time and charging a fee for additional usage.

    As previously reported by CNET News.com, San Francisco-based BlueLight, the Internet arm of Kmart, said it would drop its free, unlimited Internet access model and move to a different strategy that included a fee-based system.

    Beginning March 1, the company will give its customers the option of choosing between two tiers of service. BlueLight's roughly 6 million customers will be able to choose from a basic package that gives them 12 hours of free Internet access per month or a premier package that gives them 100 hours of Internet access for $9.95 a month.

    As part of the new plan, BlueLight's Internet service customers also can get a month of free online access for a limited time by purchasing an item at BlueLight's e-commerce site. Shoppers will be able to earn more free months for every $50 they spend before taxes and shipping costs for an order totaling over $100. BlueLight's e-commerce site sells clothing, toys, books, CDs and jewelry, among other items.

    BlueLight, which entered the free Net access business after acquiring certain assets from the now defunct Spinway.com, has joined a growing list of companies that have recently ditched the no-cost model. Many companies have said becoming a free Internet service provider is not a viable business.

    Last December, Web portal AltaVista shuttered its free Internet access. The company's parent, CMGI, terminated its free ISP holding, 1stUp.com. Another popular free ISP, Juno Online Services, has struggled with its free model and last November imposed some restrictions on heavy Internet access usage.

    BlueLight, which also provides Internet access to businesses, recently ceased providing free online services to retailers Costco, Barnes&Noble.com and Spiegel.

    When the service launches next month, BlueLight's subscribers will have the opportunity to be automatically enrolled in the basic service. At that time, customers can choose to upgrade to the premier service.