Charter Communications Inc, controlled by cable industry pioneer John Malone, offered to buy Time Warner Cable Inc for $56 billion, seeking to combine the No. 3 and No. 2 U.S. cable operators to compete against market leader Comcast Corp. The partners, who said on Tuesday the deal would mean better access to broadband Internet for many consumers, immediately faced questions about likely regulatory obstacles that helped sink Comcast's earlier bid for Time Warner Cable. The Federal Communications Commission was unusually quick to comment, saying it would closely review the deal's merits. "In applying the public interest test, an absence of harm is not sufficient." Charter, in which Liberty Broadband Corp owns about 26 percent, offered about $195.71 in cash and stock for each Time Warner Cable share, based on Charter's closing price on May 20.