Severe criticism of the “deplorable” broadband coverage suffered by rural areas such as Cumbria has brought further calls for action.

Almost 30,000 homes in the county are currently without adequate broadband connections.

Now Lord Adonis, head of the National Infrastructure Commission, has criticised the state of the UK's mobile and broadband services, demanding that telecom regulator Ofcom to take urgent steps.

It follows a report that one million homes have poor broadband and large parts of the UK have no 4G coverage.

Jonathan Harris is aiming to deliver superfast broadband to 93 per cent of residents and businesses in the county by September next year through Connecting Cumbria, a partnership between Cumbria County Council and BT.

Despite a government target to have a national average of 95 per cent homes and businesses on superfast broadband coverage by the end of the year, the figure in Cumbria is just 88.5 per cent.

Superfast broadband counts as any connection above 24 mbps, which is fast enough to facilitate services such as Netflix.

Mr Harris, senior programme manager with Connecting Cumbria, said: “There is nothing new in what Lord Adonis is saying. We all know the situation.

“My worry is that central government ticks boxes with these targets. We in Cumbria have a long way to go to meet these.”

As part of his role Mr Harris lobbies government for the money to bring Cumbria's broadband up to standard and has acknowledged the difficulties caused by the terrain and low density of properties.

“It is good that there is awareness of the problem in rural parts of the UK but whether it is backed up by funding at national level remains to be seen,” he added.

Connecting Cumbria has already overcome major engineering challenges to service remote communities. The most recent was at Howtown on Ullswater which is more than a mile from the nearest telephone exchange.

With community help, engineers from Openreach were able to lift a series of specially built telegraph poles up a hill to connect fibre optic cable to 15 homes and businesses including the Howtown Hotel and Ullswater Steamers.

Chris Conder, founder member of B4RN and volunteer, a community benefit broadband provider, said: "Lord Adonis is quite right, the UK infrastructure has not been upgraded for decades and Openreach is a virtual monopoly leaching the assets of a Victorian phone network instead of investing in bringing it up to date.

"Using old phone lines and branding them as fibre fools many people, but it doesn't fool those living and working in the countryside or on long lines or exchange only lines in cities.

"We are falling behind third world countries who are storming ahead laying real fibre."

Lord Adonis said Ofcom and the Government needed to "put all options on the table" to tackle coverage black spots which left four out of five rural homes without any 4G service indoors. These should include possible legal and regulatory changes.

"In an age when access to a mobile signal is regarded as a must-have, it is deplorable that even in areas previously considered to have strong coverage, operators are still delivering such poor services that customers can struggle to make a quick phone call," he said.

"It demonstrates the need for urgent and radical action to tackle this issue immediately, ahead of new mobile spectrum being auctioned and 5G technology being rolled out.”

The former Labour transport secretary said significantly higher signal strengths were required to improve customer service and mobile phone companies should share masts where appropriate.

Matt Hancock, minister for digital, said there was a "clear need" for rapid improvements to mobile coverage.

"We've recently removed outdated restrictions, giving mobile operators more freedom to improve their networks including hard-to-reach rural areas," he said.

"But industry needs to play its part too through continued investment and improvement in their networks, making sure that customers are not paying for services they don't receive."

Ofcom said it agreed that mobile coverage should urgently improve and it was setting new rules for operators' licences.

Dave Millett, an independent telecoms expert, said: “Given the statement by Lord Adonis, will the Government now revisit the 2014 deal agreed with the network operators to improve coverage?

“Under the agreement all four of the mobile networks collectively agreed, amongst other things, to guarantee voice and text coverage from each operator across 90 percent of the UK geographic area by 2017, halving the areas currently blighted by patchy coverage as a result of partial ‘not-spots’.

“The networks have obviously failed to deliver their side of the bargain – so will the Government now enforce free roaming within the UK at no cost to users?

In its Connected Nations 2017 report, Ofcom found around one million homes and offices unable to get enough broadband to meet their needs.

About 230,000 small and medium sized enterprises were hampered by slow internet connections with the situation worse in rural areas where 17 per cent of homes had slow connections compared with just two per cent in urban areas.

But Ofcom said coverage was improving, with the number of homes unable to get good broadband falling from 1.6 million premises last year.