Federal regulators plan a close look at whether a proposed merger between telephone titan AT&T and cable giant Tele-Communications Inc. is good for competition.

"Does this promote further competition? Does this promote further consumer choice? . . . What does it mean in terms of access for all Americans (to advanced telecommunications services)?" said Deborah Lathen, chief of the Federal Communications Commission's Cable Services Bureau, in a briefing with reporters on Friday.Those are some of the key issues that will be examined as the FCC reviews whether the $32 billion deal is in the "public interest" - the sweeping legal mandate the agency uses to judge merger cases.

Federal antitrust officials also will review the deal.

The Cable Services Bureau will have primary responsibility for the FCC's review of the merger and will work closely with the FCC's Common Carrier Bureau, which oversee phone companies.

AT&T's and TCI's merger documents were just filed to the agency in the last week, she said.

Lathen said it is too early to tell whether the agency would impose certain competitive requirements on the companies as a condition of winning federal regulatory approval.

"I can't tell you that we're going to have any pre-conditions. All I can say is it's something that we will be thinking about as we look at that merger," she said.

Separately, asked whether the FCC would crack down on steeply rising cable TV rates, Lathen said: "There's not much that we can do directly with respect to rates."